By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“I knew that you are a loving and merciful God, always kind, and always ready to change mind and not punish.” — Jonah 4:2b
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Churches in Baguio celebrated the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from January 21-26, 2013. This is a worldwide program initiated by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican with the primary purpose of fostering unity and cooperation among Christian churches all over the world. If Christians are hopelessly divided on various social issues, at least they should be one in worship and fellowship.
What is quite interesting to note in the program for this year in the City of Baguio is the participation of some evangelical Christians. Usually, some evangelical Christians are not ecumenical in orientation. They find it quite difficult to fellowship with other Christians due to their self-righteous attitude even though they know for a fact that this was the prayer of Jesus Christ our Lord “that they may be one so that the world may believe.”
In the experience of my church, some evangelical Christians join our church not to be one in spirit and in truth, but rather to find for an opportunity to sow intrigues, claiming they are the only ones being saved, split the church and get our members. I just came from Apayao where I trained lay preachers from our churches in the mountain villages who for various reasons could come to the seminary for training. They were sharing with me how some evangelical Christians went there, joined their churches, sowed intrigues, divided their churches, and got their members. Fortunately, some members returned after realizing that what happened was unethical and un-Christian.
God’s Love and Compassion is Inclusive
In the Old Testament, Prophet Jonah thought that the Israelites had an exclusive franchise of God’s love and compassion. God called him to preach to the people of Nineveh so that they would repent and change their ways, but he didn’t want to go because he wanted God to annihilate them. Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire that destroyed Israel in 722 BCE. This explains the deep hatred of Israelites as personified by Jonah against the people Nineveh.
Hesitatingly, Prophet Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh. They believed, repented, and changed their ways, from the King down to the lowest citizens, including the animals! This shows that salvation and transformation must be holistic; not only human beings, but also the rest of God’s creation, including the animals, must be saved and transformed. They are part of God’s concern.
But nevertheless, Jonah was not happy, because he wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. Thus, he said to God, “I knew that you are a loving and merciful God, always patient, always kind, and always ready to change mind and not punish” (Jonah 4:2b). God did not destroy the City of Nineveh according to Jonah’s desire, because God’s love and compassion is inclusive. It is not only for Jonah and his fellow Israelites, but rather it is also for those whom they considered enemies, those whom they considered evil people.
Some Christians are like Jonah; they thought that God’s love and compassion is only for them. But the good news is that God’s love and compassion is universal, thus we need to be one.
Some Contemporary Realities
We must be one not only because God is one and God loves everyone, but also because there are realities in our world today that force us to be one if we are to survive as a human race.
First is our global consciousness. People today are beginning to realize that we actually live in an interconnected and interdependent world system which we never realized before. People of different, often conflicting nations, races, and cultures are realizing that they do share a single atmosphere, a single source of water, the same small global village. Our problem now is how to collectively translate this global consciousness into an authentic human community where people are one in order to survive.
Second is the issue of Pluralism. We actually live in a pluralistic world. Pluralism is a situation in which various religions, philosophies and ideological conceptions live side by side and in which none of them holds a privileged status. Here, diversity is accepted as creative as well as constrictive for human relations. The church should accept the pluralism in its own life as a positive attribute. Mission should be understood now as partnership between Christians and people of other faiths in an interfaith dialogue.
And third is the issue of survival of the human race. All of us share in the planetary problems, like diminishing supply of energy and food, conflicts of nations, cultures, races and religion, anarchy, injustice and the denial of human rights, threat of nuclear warfare and the possibility of environmental annihilation. But nevertheless, we Christians live with a theology of hope, declaring that the destiny of the world is in God’s hands. Justice, peace and liberation of all peoples are God’s gifts meant for this earth and its history. Hence, we need to be one.
As W.H. Auden said, “We must love one another or die.” # nordis.net