I wish to warmly commend Bishop Hwa Yung for his insightful article entitled “The Elections are over – what next?” that appeared in the April 1, 2008 issue of Pelita Methodist.
It is not often that a bishop or even less so for the Methodist Church to comment on public affairs or issues related to political governance.
Bishop Hwa Yung’s forthright comments, to my mind, is a rare precedent. I hope that his reflection will spark more debate in church circles about things happening around us in the socio economic and political realm. It is about time that churches look beyond the confines of spiritual activities within their four walls and look into the larger world. Our light must shine in the world as Jesus commanded his disciples in the Gospel.
As Bishop Hwa Yung has rightly stated in his thoughtful article, in the last 20 years the dominant teaching in many churches was that the world outside was sinful and therefore politics was dirty business. So as the bishop pointed out many believe that “Christians should be concerned with Higher Things.”
I have often wondered if our churches are still living with such a mindset that everything outside the churches’ environment is unredeemable and therefore stands condemned. Hence many seek to live within the cocoon of “righteousness” within the church.
My reading of the gospels of Jesus shows our Lord encountering people from all walks of life in market places and in the country side. He surely did not spend all his time in so-called holy places like in the synagogues and in the temple. In fact He overturned the tables, drove out those who were selling merchandise in the temple area, called them “robbers” and left them in protest.
More impressive is the fact that Jesus took special interest in the poor and the marginalized in society. He did not spend time with the rich and the powerful. Indeed the Church will do well to live Jesus’ message in the market square, in our work places and in the larger society.
Our Response to the sea change?
Bishop Hwa Yung was right to raise the crucial question for all of us; “How do we respond as Christians to the sea change that has just swept our country?”
He makes three sound recommendations:
- We must put our own house in order
- We must ensure ‘integrity and accountability in government, and
- We should pray for those in power.
The above are laudable goals but we must also ask ourselves: what concrete Action Plans do we have to implement these noble aspirations?
Good intentions alone are not enough. I think there are many strong and varied talents among Christians in our country. Their talents should be harnessed and they should impact church plans and programmes as well as in making a social impact in the country, especially to benefit God’s poor children. Most Malaysian Christians are above the poverty line and many are really rich. But do we know what has been our contribution in cash or kind to help the less fortunate of ALL races and religions? Do we collectively care?
Perhaps we can learn more of our testimony if we ask the questions: how many community projects do we undertake that seek to improve the quality of the life of our neighbours – regardless of race and religion? What effective projects and programmes have the churches done to promote national unity, education, health and social justice in our country and especially among marginalised Malaysians? What has been our contribution and impact on policy formulation and Implementation in our country? Are we mostly enjoying our privileges and not sufficiently fulfilling our responsibilities to society?
I remember Jesus said we should be like the “salt of the earth”. If the salt does not taste, it should be discarded. What Jesus said could very well relate to the social witness of the church. Do our friends and colleagues say of us – “Ah! He / She shows his care and concern and works for the good of society because he/she is a Christian!”
I would like to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters to take up the challenge of our times that has been appropriately proposed by Bishop Hua Yung and begin to engage with the major policy issues of our nation. The bishop’s proposals should not only be heeded but acted upon. Otherwise his advice will fall on deaf ears and a stubborn peopleas described in the bible. Churches should be working together to make a positive impact on our society.
Instead of complaining and grumbling about matters that we are not happy about, we should have serious discussions on the vital national issues and see how we can contribute to God’s righteous purpose in national governance and social justice.
The present sea change has provided us with a real opportunity to make changes for a more God-fearing nation where there is greater national unity, peace, stability, prosperity and goodwill to all. men and women for a Better Malaysia. Let us not waste this opportunity. Let us take seriously what our Bishop has subtly called us to do. Let us become agents of change, or else face the risk of being judged by posterity and our Lord for not living up to the high ideals of our Church and Christian Gospel.
Like many concerned Christians, I am trying to do my share and I look forward with eager anticipation to see what Action Plans and concrete measures will be taken, to follow up on the clarion call by Bishop Hwa Yung of: “What’s Next”, please!
May God Bless Us all!