30 August 2014 by Jason Law CM –
NOTE: This article is written in the context of the Christian belief and is not intended to offend anyone, whether Christian or otherwise. It is especially not intended to be a political piece or to refer to any political parties. It takes a neutral stance and its purpose is to bring back the values of concepts that contribute to the strength of each of our nations.
The purpose this article was written is to guide Christians towards our roles as citizens in our respective nations. It is nevertheless my hope that these concepts can be taken to heart by every citizen of every nation regardless of faith.
As Christians, we are sworn to pledge ultimate allegiance to Christ and God the Father. Nevertheless, we too are citizens within our own nations, under oath of loyalty to our ruler and country. In Mark 12:17; Jesus taught us to ‘render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar’ and to render to God what belongs to God. And in Romans 13:1, Paul taught us to subject ourselves to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.
Like the peoples of other countries, for all Malaysians, there are certain central concepts that contribute towards the peace and well-being of this country. Many of these concepts are found all across the world. As Malaysian Christians, we ought to adhere to these concepts where there’s no conflict with our faith.
At the same time, we know that we should always center our lives upon Christ and the Father. So, what does the Bible say about these concepts? As we near our National Day tomorrow, perhaps it is good to reflect on them. Some of the central concepts we have are:
The Webster Dictionary defines ‘harmony’ as synonymous with ‘accord’ or ‘agreement’. In a multi-cultural and multi-religious country like Malaysia, it is obviously difficult for Christians to agree with every single belief of the people around us. There is no reason, however, that we cannot come into agreement on such matters as religious tolerance and harmonious coexistence. We must respond with love to the people around us.
Harmony takes into account such values as “goodwill”, “peace”, and “unity”. We must not become zealots. As Christians, we must hold fast to our faith but not to the extent of rigidity. For example, if we receive invitations to open houses by non-Christians, it is perfectly alright for us to go. If there is a national celebration, it is also perfectly alright for Christians to participate. The central key is that we do so as Christians with our Christian faith and values intact.
The website www.openbible.info.com lists 19 verses from the Bible about harmony. Some examples of these verses are :
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
As Malaysian Christians, we also ought to pray for the peace of our country, and do our utmost to preserve the peace within it, whether from external or internal threats. We must reject all forms of extremism or calls for violence. In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is known as the Prince of Peace, and His proclamation was for peace among mankind. He has given us the calling to tear down the walls of division and hostility (Ephesians 2:14-17) and a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Very often, when we are threatened with violence, our natural instinct is to throw stones back. Jesus has taught us, however, of the higher and nobler spiritual way, where might is not right, but rather, love, compassion and the sanctity of life.
The website www.openbible.info.com lists 55 verses from the Bible about peace making. Some examples of these verses are:
Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
In the Webster dictionary, the concept of loyalty is defined by the notions of faithfulness and constancy. In Solomon Rajah’s book, ‘Symbols and the Church’, he highlights the verse from Genesis 21:23b about what God has to say about our loyalty to our country : “Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.” (Symbols and the Church, Page 48)
Solomon Rajah explains that this implies that God views loyalty to God and to the nation as of equal importance. In Mark 12:17 and Romans 13, we are reminded again about our loyalty to the authorities that God has assigned for us. Christians can show their loyalty by contributing their best efforts to the well-being of the country through charitable and missionary work, and through services like health and education. We are stewards where God has placed us.
The website www.openbible.info.com lists 73 verses from the Bible about loyalty. Some examples of these verses are :
My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,
1 Corinthians 4:2
Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
In his book, Solomon Rajah also explains about the origin of the word “Muhibbah”. The word comes from the Arabic word meaning “love”, ”friendship”, or “affection” (Symbols and the Church; Page 46). For Christians, the best encapsulation of this concept is found in the model of Shalom, a Hebrew word meaning peace, completeness, prosperity, and welfare.
In the original cultural context, the word can also be used idiomatically to mean hello or goodbye, indicating the usage of shalom as a part of daily life. It exhorts us to seek for the peace between two entities or parties, and to the well-being, welfare, or safety of an individual or group. In the Christian message, it transcends a mere state of mind, being or affairs. It means more than an absence of conflict.
Shalom encapsulates a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world. In Luke 2:14, when the angels were announcing to the shepherds about the Messiah’s birth, they proclaimed that one of the things He will bring upon the earth is goodwill towards all mankind. In a multi-cultural country like Malaysia, there is no greater calling.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
20Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The best-known admonition concerning this is found in Mark 3:25; If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. The unity of the organizational body is crucial to the strength and growth of that organization, and this includes one that is defined by national borders. An organization that is beset by disunity inevitably ends up in stagnation, and very often, is vulnerable to external or internal threats.
Christian unity, both as the Body of Christ and as citizens within our nation, must serve as a potent corporate testimony to the world. As Christians, we must seek for the unity among the churches and not be obsessed with individualistic ministries or petty issues. Such an obsession will rob us of our credibility.
Extending outside the walls of the church, we must show our unity with the others in our nation by upholding the King, government, people, and whole nation both in deed and in our prayers. There are numerous ways Christians can show solidarity with our nation, and which we can express through our actions.
Some verses in the Bible concerning unity are:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
1 Corinthians 1:10
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
This National Day let us continue to pray for the peace, growth, and strength of our nation. May we continue to stay away from extremism and violence that tears down nations, and may we be proud of our nation instead of gossiping about it. Let us continue to be testimonies for the Lord, shining forth His glory.
NOTE: This reflection is inspired and guided throughout by Solomon Rajah’s ‘Symbols and the Church’; copyright Solomon Rajah, 2005; Published by the Council of Churches of Malaysia.
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