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We must not be everyone else

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Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 10, 2018

1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15; Psalm 138 and 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Our readings for today begin with the children of Israel asking for a king in place of God and His prophets in 1 Samuel 8:4-20. The Israelites have observed that Samuel is aging and is going to leave them soon and his sons are incompetent leaders. They decide to request for a king. What catches my attention the most in this passage is the reason behind their request. They wanted “to be like the other nations.” Samuel disapproves of the people’s demand and warns them that their desire to be like other nations will lead to repression and tyranny. Their covenant relationship with God made them unique from the other nations. The desire of the people to be like other nations was their downfall.

As Christians, we sometimes find ourselves tempted to be like everyone else, and this can lead us to do things that will not represent our values as Christians. In a world where Christians are more persecuted than any other religion, we sometimes find that when we are with our friends or colleagues or business associates, we are ashamed to identify ourselves as Christians and are led to go against our Christian values because we feel the pressure or need to be like everyone else.

For me, it happened when I had just had my first degree. At that time most of my friends were aspiring to become medical doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, etc. We all wanted to make it big in life, that for us was our primary goal. I desired to work with the United Nations Development Program either as an expert or advisor in one of the fields. And so, for God to call me to become a minister was entirely out of order. I did all I could to convince Him that I was the wrong candidate and promised to do more evangelism, since I was the leader of the evangelism team in my church. A minister is respected in my country, but everybody knows they don’t get much by way of remuneration. It was not a prestigious job, and that is what I was looking for – prestige. I could see my dad’s face beaming with pride while introducing his daughter as an advisor or development expert with the United Nations. My desire to be like everyone else consumed me, and I decided to pursue my career path and pretend that God was with me. I, therefore, started my development studies with one goal in mind – working with the United Nations.

God was too merciful to me and with the help of the Holy Spirit, made me understand that I was on the wrong path. The satisfaction and fulfillment that I thought I would get from pursuing my career was absent and I felt so empty inside. After lots of prayers, I finally understood that I was stubborn, I repented and after completing my studies, I immediately applied to a university to study Theology.

I thank God for His grace and mercy in my life every day because we sometimes learn the hard way. For the Israelites, they discovered the hard way because after insisting on having a king, they reaped the fruits of their request. When we look at the records of Israelite kings, we will see how a lot of them led their nation to sin and God’s wrath and punishment which came through exile. There might be some of us sitting here today and are having the same challenge. Ours might not be God’s call to ministry, but merely showing love to someone that everybody else hates and rejects, or publicly telling our friends that we are Christians, or refusing to do those things that are against our Christian values, which might be “normal” or “fun” to non-Christians. It might even be our Christian friends compromising their faith and encouraging us to do the same. God is inviting us today to stand tall and accept our uniqueness as Christians.

As a church, we might be wondering how this message applies to us. One thing I noticed about this church which I admire greatly is their acceptance of diversity. We all know that it is difficult to adapt to change. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that at first our bodies are strong and then we begin to fade and grow weak. As a church and as Canadians, we might feel threatened by the flow of immigrants to our nation. And as the former moderator Peter Bush said during the General Assembly which just took place, some of these immigrants are Christians. Dayspring stands out as one of those churches which has opened its doors to different races, cultures, and tribes. I am sure that this for us has not been that easy, but we still went ahead and did it. Paul’s choice in this passage is to willingly suffer and die for others to be led to Christ. As a church, we have had to make allowances to include other cultures into our worship service, something that is probably different from what we might have been used to some 30-50years back. That to me is what this church can term as their pain, but this is because we know that we all have the same king and Savior who is Jesus Christ our Lord who died for the Jews as well as the Gentiles.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will be able to name those churches here in our Presbytery which struggle to integrate other people and cultures. I am coming from a church in Montreal where people left the church because it was becoming too African for them. I understand their struggle and pray for them to get to the point of acceptance. God is encouraging us as a church today to keep up the excellent work we are doing even when we might be unique in what we do. We are indeed preparing ourselves life in heaven. There is not going to be separate heavens for different continents and peoples. We will all be in the same place. A church that accepts the diversity of culture and people is a reflection of heaven on earth. God is telling us that we are on the right path and we should keep on going and not let anything discourage us. Psalm 138:6 shows us that though the Lord is high, He regards the lowly. God has regard for every one of His children and is pleased with those who do the same. Let us continue to exalt the name of the Lord and His word above everything, knowing that our Lord and King will preserve and deliver us from all our challenges. Amen.

 

Copyright 2018 – Ms. Enjei Achah, Presbytery Summer Student from Presbyterian College, Montreal, who was spending two weeks at Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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