Soul Food 4 U

It addresses itself to every day issues of life from a Christian perspective. You'll be challenged. You'll be rebuked. You'll be encouraged. You'll grow.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

IT IS NOT OUR CUSTOM HERE. . . BE A WINDOW RATHER THAN A MIRROR PERSON

May 12, 2006

REFLECTIONS

· We shape our buildings, afterward our buildings shape us (Winston Churchill).

· Everything people identify as really important has to do with others . . . our greatest joy and our greatest pain comes in our relationship with others.

· If you want to go faster, go alone, but if you want to go further, go with another.

TEXT:

Gen 29:26

26 Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. NIV

Josh 1:14-15 .. .but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers 15 until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land,

Luke 10:27

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'"

Human beings are knit together in a way that they cannot do without one another. That Godly aspect was demonstrated in my childhood when my mother would send me to a neighbour to borrow salt or ask for fire even when we had some or could go to the shops. The belief was that a neighbour from whom we got a spoonful of salt could come and ask for something from us. No human being can be self-made because our accomplishments are interdependent. People make up the ecology that determines our productivity. What may be seen as individual success is usually a result of actions of others who have cleared the paths, that lead the way; finding the things that did not work so that we could find the one thing that could work. To ignore the fate of those with whom we are could mar our path and hinder the possibility of achieving our desired goals. Success of our brother is what will build powerful teams that are based on the strengths of each other. Some Christian anthropologists say kinship is more than a network of biological relationships. . . It establishes social ties, patterns of behaviour, obligations and responsibilities, and patterns of authority. To be effective in a society as Christians we need to understand this roadmap or structure of interpersonal relationships.

We can learn some lessons from Jacob who must have been a purpose-driven and diligent person but missed out on some important details on the roadmap. While Jacob's twin brother Esau was having deep socialisation relationships that had led to marriage of two women he was wondering alone in an unknown land. What a joy it must have been for Jacob to meet the girl who beheld more than his dreams? He was willing to do whatever it took to have Rachel as his lawfully wedded wife. Seven years of work for a focused man were pleasant bride service. Like my people would say, "To a lover's home there are no hills." Everything from the time Jacob met Rachel was working well until after the wedding night. Was Jacob short-sighted or was he so much in love that he missed to take note of very important details? Was Jacob a mirror person who just saw that which concerned him only? Why did Jacob miss out on the customs of the people during the seven years he worked for Laban his uncle? As Jacob worked in order to marry Rachel, did it occur to him that Leah was older and she also needed a husband? For failing to take note of the custom, he had to live with the fruit of his ignorance for the rest of his life. Jacob needed a glass window that would help him realise that Laban's burden could end up being his burden.

Ignoring the structures and the customs within which one operates is like assuming there are no lanes while driving on a four-lane highway. At the round-about or turning point, one is likely to cause accidents or hinder other drivers or have to turn to a direction that was not intended. Customs are containers of beliefs, convictions and values that have been tested by a group of people over time. What people repeatedly do becomes their habit, habits become traditions and traditions become customs. Christian anthropologist Charles Kraft says, Human beings have produced and imposed upon us an incredible complex culture from which, to the end of our days, we cannot escape. People come up with beliefs and attach value to the beliefs, then the beliefs shape their thinking and determine how they view life. We reflect the image of God when we attach similar value to people and objects as God attaches. The discrepancy between what we value and what God values is what causes strife among human beings, the actual cause of our poverty. The closure of that discrepancy is what we who are Christians are called to do in our world. Jacob failed to realise that the customs that prevailed among his in-laws would affect him. As a Christian you cannot afford to be uninformed about the prevailing beliefs in your environment. Your determination, hard work, purposeful life can bring fulfilment if you have a window attitude that allows you to see outside otherwise you may find yourself intimately intertwined in the poverty, ignorance, disease which you have always tried to steer clear. The cleanliness of your compound does not stop rats from your neighbours house venturing into your compound. Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ mandated us to go to the world, not just keep organising and cleaning our structures.

The children of Israel who got settled soon after crossing Jordan were advised not to settle down until their brothers were settled. That should be the same of you and me. You have gotten some education, you have a faith that is working for you and you have knowledge of how to make ends meet. Your purpose-driven life can be derailed if you are so absorbed in your achievements and accomplishments that you do not realise that your neighbour needs to settle. Individualised salvation and journey to heaven is actualised as the seed of salvation is spread to those with whom we share some customs. Our heavenly Father cares for all of us even when we do not reciprocate his love. Both the Old and the New Testament emphasise the need to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. The balance between loving your neighbour as you love yourself is important. You cannot love yourself unless you know who you are. To know who you are, you need to know whose you are and thus the need to love the Lord your God with all of yourself. It is not until you know the love of the Almighty God and acknowledge his fatherhood and grace that you are able to love your neighbour.

Jesus Christ described the neighbour as anyone who is incapacitated and marginalised by systems that encourage individualised selfish benefits without giving thought to the dignity of the people. The good neighbour is the one who thinks about the journey before the journey starts. He prepares oil, bandage and some money because he has thought through the possibilities on the journey (Luke 11:30-36). An aspect of knowing the customs is to know that there are thieves and robbers that destroy others and so think about them.

We who have accepted to be disciples of Jesus Christ in the continent of Africa are cross-cultural communicators in that we live in the world but we use Kingdom of God values that sometime do not agree with the ones used by our neighbours. We need to know the customs of the people with whom we live. Customs reveal accumulation of what has worked over the years and so has become acceptable. To be renewed in thinking means accepting to have those generally accepted ways of life examined against what the Scripture says and so select that which is in line with our faith and desired destiny. Those of our people who do not examine their beliefs against the Scripture are the ones we have been sent to and so cannot ignore what they consider to be their custom.

Suppose the gate to heaven is through you neighbours compound, would you pass with ease or would you be blocked?

19 Comments:

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I really like what you have said - it is something I will be reflecting upon this week - loving my neighbour as myself has suddenly taken on a new dimension

Thank you

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