*** This post is a follow-up to my controversial post entitled
"They Will Know we are Christians by Our Love..." ***
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."’ (Matthew 25:31-40)
Christian psychologist and trauma expert, Dr. Diane Langberg, describes her experience visiting one of the dungeon chambers at Cape Coast Castle, Ghana, which housed male slaves in the late 1700's. She was shocked to learn that above the dark dungeon was a chapel. Directly above 200 chained men, sat God-worshipers who "sang, read the scripture, prayed, and [who] I supposed took up an offering for the less fortunate. The slaves could hear the service, and the worshipers could hear the slaves [crying, screaming and utterly filthy]...The visual parable was stunning."
She goes on to say, "[The tour guide commented that it was] 'heaven above, hell below'...but I would argue... that heaven was not above...because that is not what heaven does... Heaven leaves heaven... Heaven comes down. If the people of that chapel had truly worshiped the God of the scriptures, they would have been in the dungeon. In the filth, in the darkness and the trauma and they would have entered in so they might bring out.
"...The church goes into the dungeon so the dungeon becomes the church...
God came to this dung-filled dungeon you and I call earth and He sat with us and He touched us and He loved us and He brought us to Himself... He became one of us. We are the slaves in the dungeon...and He did not take us out so we can stand on the necks of the oppressed... He's called us...to go back into the plague infested dung-heap so that other slaves might find freedom... The dungeons of Cape Coast Castle existed below because they were first in the hearts of the worshipers."
As our pastor said in a past sermon, "We need to be prepared to leave our sanitized world, and invest ourselves deeply in the lives of broken and traumatized people...To truly love God is to express that love in an ongoing, deepening relationship with people around you...especially those who are most wounded, most hurt, and most traumatized...
"If the church is relevant to life of the world today, it must learn to identify the traumas of our day... [and the] questions that nobody has answers to...We need to be able to take a living Jesus who rose from the dead and who conquered the grave and who can speak into those situations and change lives unspeakably by the power of his resurrection. That's what it is to be a church! "
A question our pastor left us with was this:
Who has God used to bless you and help meet your needs? Who in your life has been His hands and His feet? Maybe it was someone who led you to Christ or someone who helped you grow spiritually. Or maybe someone helped you grow emotionally or psychologically by listening to your pain and embracing you with the love of Jesus. Perhaps it was someone who helped you with a physical or financial need. Or someone who brought you a meal or babysat your kids. Either way, I doubt it was the legalistic, holier-than-thou, afraid-to-get-their-hands-dirty Christian.
As we have been shown the love of God through Jesus (and hopefully too through someone else), we in turn must show that same love to someone else. The final question we were left to ponder, was this:
Who is there in your circle of influence, that the Lord calls you to bless? Regardless of whether it is a dungeon of their own making, who do you know who is struggling in the dungeons of this world? Dr. Langberg argues that trauma is one of the primary mission fields for the church of the 21st century. When we refuse to go there--and instead choose to hide in the chapel--we are not unlike the chapel-goers at Cape Coast Castle. To stay in the chapel is to stay clean, but it is not to follow our Saviour. It was He who said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."’
I challenge you to go out and make a difference in the life of someone you know. It might be uncomfortable. It may very well be inconvenient. It will probably be messy. But it's exactly where Jesus would be.
**** The complete presentation of Dr. Diane Langberg,
as well as Pastor John's sermon entitled "People Helping People" are available online. ****