By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“I tell you whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!” – Matthew 25:40
Third of 3 parts (click here for the 2nd part)
Some lessons and challenges
Nevertheless, there are some significant lessons as well as challenges we could glean from the experiences of Protestant witness in our country. Firstly, there was an affirmation of the truth that the Christian Gospel is, indeed, a liberating gospel. The liberating message of the Gospel could not be hindered. While it is true that Protestantism was introduced in our country as an instrument of American colonialism, it is also equally true that the effect on the people might not necessarily be the same as that which was intended by those who tried to make religion an instrument of political and economic causes.
Certainly, there are prophetic elements in the Protestant faith itself that would serve as a critique of American colonialism and neo-colonialism. As a matter of fact, this is the very nature of the Christian faith and of the Christian God. The cross, which is considered the central symbol of the Christian faith, is meant to stop the Jesus Movement, but it turned out to be the very reason for the Movement to go on. Indeed, God has a way of turning misfortunes into blessings.
Secondly, Protestant Christianity spread throughout the country, not so much by martyrdom and persecution, but by living out the Protestant faith in daily life. Protestant witness in our country does not speak of great martyrdom and persecution of people who accepted the Protestant faith. It does not speak of great dangers and threats to one’s life, because of what one believes and affirms as the truth. Rather, it speaks of ordinary events in the life of ordinary people. However, these ordinary events would become extraordinary when understood in the light of faith.
This reminds us of Matthew’s account about the Final Judgment (cf Mt. 25). The Ultimate Judge will sit upon His throne to judge the people of all nations. He will divide them into two groups, and He will say to those on his right, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world. I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; 1 was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me”. The righteous will then answer him, “When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothed you? When did we ever see you sick and in prison, and visit you? The Ultimate Judge will reply, “tell you whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!”
Giving food to the hungry and water to the thirsty, receiving strangers, taking care of the sick, and visiting the imprisoned: all these are just ordinary events in our daily life, which any ordinary person could do. These are not big events that would attract people and would make a person famous and land in the pages of history books. However, such small deeds of love and compassion would not escape the all-searching eyes of the Ultimate Judge of all. No wonder those on the right are surprised when the Ultimate Judge recognized what are supposed to be just ordinary occurrence in their lives. Apparently, God’s Kingdom is established not on account of the thrones of the mighty, but on account of the seemingly ordinary deeds of mercy of ordinary people.
And finally, Protestantism has spread throughout the country not so much because of big personalities who occupied the pages of history books, but because of the small, insignificant, nameless people who had been working painstakingly, patiently and faithfully in living out their Protestant faith.
Hence, if there is any challenge Protestant witness in our country would give us it is no other than the recognition that oftentimes it is in the ordinary that God’s work could be experienced. This is precisely the meaning of incarnation. God became flesh and dwelt among us (cf. Jn.l).
Understanding our faith in the light of the incarnation would make us change our understanding of history. It would make us see God’s creative Spirit working in ordinary events and in the lives of ordinary people. And where God is, may the church be there also. #