Christian activist: Lessons in love
Sunday morning. Welcome at the door, singing, teaching, and tea and coffee at the end. Does this sound familiar? On Sunday, we enter a church community, but when we go out of the doors we are immersed into the wider community filled with different faces – your neighbour, your local shopkeeper, the taxi driver, your work colleague. If it seems like a different world from Sunday morning. Where does God’s kingdom fit in, which we pray for each Sunday?
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” What does this prayer really mean? What will God’s kingdom look like if God’s will is actually done on earth?
I have a dream. It actually seems to be God’s dream – the dream of shalom runs all the way through the Bible.
A peaceful place to live in. There is no litter or dog mess. No one is hungry or homeless. No graffiti. No hurt, pain or sickness. Children can play safely. The downtrodden are supported. There’s hope, health, happiness and friendship. Families are united and marriages last and are kept sacred. Money is not the deciding factor but is distributed fairly and generously. There is no arguing or fighting but humility, justice, thankfulness and neighbours live in harmony. A place of belonging where everyone feels loved and accepted unconditionally.
I know what you are thinking. This could never be achieved on earth and is far too idealistic. Maybe so, but I have experienced elements of that dream come into fruition by taking onboard Jesus’ values for my life.
One story that comes to mind is of a family of living on a housing estate near where I live. Mum and dad (let’s call them Paula and David) have been married for seven years and have three young children. Things have not been good in their relationship for a long time now. Finances, communication difficulties have all played a part. Life became increasingly stressful and Paula often sought solace and advice from various people at church, sharing all the difficulties of being married to David. People didn’t really know how to help them.
Their situation grew worse and to add to the problems, Paula decided to take on a full-time course of study to become a teacher and kicked David out of the house. Soon he lost his job. For weeks I felt prompted by God to contact David and Paula to help them follow Jesus but procrastinated for fear of being overwhelmed with the insurmountable problems.
Eventually, I plucked up the courage to call. Paula and David started attending a marriage course we ran. Initially David did not want to work at the marriage but obviously still loved Paula. It seemed that nothing but a miracle would change his mind – but it happened. Now they are slowly piecing their marriage back together.
They’ve started to forgive each other for the hurt caused. They’re beginning to learn how to deal with conflict and developing better ways to communicate. These, and many other important issues, are being learnt over a Monday evening candlelit dinner with other couples in similar situations.
Paula and David have also experienced God’s love in other ways from the church: babysitting, gifts of money, grocery food provided, a new printer to help with course work and a few hours ironing occasionally to help lighten the load. Between us we have experienced a small piece of God’s kingdom and realise that this only happened through being obedient to Jesus and following his leading.
Monday morning. If you could see the Kingdom of God taking another step into your home, work or leisure, what would it look like?
Vivien Palmer is a church-based community coordinator in London
This article was published in the June 2013 edition of Reform.