The message below was delivered by Alex McCoy at our services on Sunday, 17 November, 2019.
1. There is darkness
Both spiritual and moral darkness exist.
God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to Israelites in Babylon saying, ‘Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’
That’s what we’ve been doing, right? Praying to the Lord for Hong Kong, especially over the last 5 months. Praying for its peace.
The original word used for peace in this passage, is the word ‘Shalom’. It means far more than the English word conveys. It means complete reconciliation, a state of flourishing in every facet of life: physical, social, and spiritual. Where all relationships are perfect, and right, and filled with joy.
But instead of that peace that we all want for Hong Kong, we’re getting the opposite. We’re seeing our city disintegrate in front of our eyes.
There is the disruption to the normal aspects of life: of schooling, and transport, and work.
The damage to property and infrastructure. The loss of income and employment. Relational breakdown, deep divisions, the loss of trust, across the board, but even in the most intimate of relationships in the home. There’s the escalation of violence, and tragically, the loss of life. All of these things making wounds in our society that will take years to heal.
This is not ‘Shalom’.
As God’s people, we should be deeply affected at the darkness we see around us. This is not how things are supposed to be. We cannot be numb and unmoved. We should weep, and mourn, and lament for the brokenness that we see and experience. We should speak against acts of injustice and violence, which should not be condoned but condemned. And we should use the legal means at our disposal to work for the good of the city.
We recognise that there is darkness, but secondly, we walk as people in the light
2. We walk as people in the light
That means, in our conduct and our words, we honour Jesus and we love our neighbour.
In these times with what’s going on around us, this is going to be more difficult than normal. Because we see the hurt and the conflict, and we want things to be put right, and we have views on how things should be put right, and we want to point out things that are wrong. Emotions are high, and we’re prone to falling out with people.
We’re going to have differences of opinion over questions of justice. But the thing is, the biblical vision of justice is so broad and comprehensive, that no current political framework can fully convey it. No worldview, or philosophy, or political ideology completely captures the bible’s vision for justice and righteousness.
That means it’s okay to have disagreements with one another over political questions. There are a range of differences at St Andrew’s. Just like there’s a range of differences in the Anglican church in Hong Kong. But it’s vital that our unity in Jesus Christ supersedes any differences that we may have.
Think about the group of people that Jesus gathered around him: the 12 disciples. Amongst them were two guys who were on opposite ends of the political landscape. There was Matthew the tax collector. He was the pro-establishment guy, friendly with the Romans. And there was Simon the Zealot. He hated the Romans. He was the revolutionary, the agitator, the freedom fighter.
Here were two natural enemies. They would have disagreed about pretty much everything. Yet, they come together to follow Jesus. That’s the miracle of grace. Grace breaks down the barrier between God and us. And it ought to break down the barriers we have with one another.
To ground this a little more practically, we ought to work out what Paul says when he encourages the Ephesians to speak the truth in love to one another.
As we walk alongside others giving comfort and strength, speaking the truth doesn’t simply mean making sure what we’re saying is factually correct, and that we’re representing other people’s opinions fairly. Speaking the truth also means, we speak the gospel to one another. We speak about its implications in our lives. That may mean saying some things that are difficult for people to hear.
But we speak the truth in love. That means that we’re slow in inferring bad motives on people. We’re generous in seeking to understand their situation. We don’t use truth as a weapon to hurt people or to win arguments. We work hard on our hearts at willing their good. And we’re very careful in what we say, both in person and on social media. We tame our tongue, as well as our fingers on our devices.
There is a difference between speaking against acts of injustice, about shining light on deeds of darkness, compared with being unloving, ungracious, hostile and abusive in your dialogue with people, and therefore, in effect, walking in darkness yourself.
Ask yourself, whether in your conversations and conduct, you’re bringing healing or pain. Whether you’re building bridges or tearing them down.
So, in these dark times, we walk in the light, and thirdly, we point people to the light.
3. We point people to the light
Many of us have felt the difficulty of sharing the gospel in these times, because it seems like all the oxygen is taken up by talking about the problems in HK. And you feel like you have to give solutions.
To be perfectly honest, Christians don’t have the answers to all the problems in HK. But really, think of Hong Kong. Normally, one of the safest, most prosperous and advanced cities in the world, containing one of the most highly educated and hardest working people in the world. This is one of the best cities humanity can offer, but we’re stuck for solutions to our problems.
It’s hard to speak about a perfect solution, but we can speak about the perfect person. The one who said, ‘I am the light of the world’; who came into our spiritual and moral darkness; who was rejected by his people; sacrificed to political expediency by the Roman government; who was a victim of terrible injustice; who was beaten, and tortured, and humiliated; who was abandoned by his closest friends, trying to save their own skins. He got everything, everything human evil and darkness could throw at him. And worst of all, on the cross, he suffered the rejection of God. Cosmic darkness fell upon him, for us.
The darkness is not just out there. It’s in here, in the human heart. The problem begins with you and me. And the solution starts with people knowing Jesus. It’s often in times such as these that your Christian witness, faith, and maturity will be most tested. But sometimes it’s in darkness that the light is most visible. Will you resolve to speak about Jesus and the hope that he brings? And will you resolve to walk according to his light, honouring Jesus and loving others in your conduct?
Lord God, it seems like we’re passing through a valley of tears, and pain, and anguish, as we see our city unravelling before our eyes: conflict and deep divisions; relationships suffering and being broken, and we can’t find the solutions.
Thank you that you are our shelter in times of trouble, our refuge, our comfort. Although everything looks dark, you’re with us in the valley and you are faithful.
We ask you once again for your favour and mercy on Hong Kong, to end the animosity and violence, to bring understanding and peace.
Forgive us for how we’ve treated one another: our impatience and judgemental attitude; our angry thoughts, and words, and actions; for the times when we’ve been more interested in winning arguments and being right instead of extending grace, and empathy, and forgiveness.
Help us to wait on you, to trust in you, and find our peace in you; to know that you are the just judge who will one day make all things right; and to honour you, to walk faithfully with your Son and make him known. Amen.