It’s been just over a month since I’ve returned from Nauru where I was working with asylum seekers in the detention centre there.
I’m still drafting a letter to our Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen; I’m struggling to find a way to convey all the complexity and emotions and thoughts surrounding this issue, in a format concise enough that it won’t take a weekend to read. There is just so much to write.
Meanwhile, I’ve returned to Australia, where I have had to resume a somewhat “normal” lifestyle for the time being.
I’ve been realising how strangely eerie it is, the way life goes on for me so unaffected and full of microwaved convenience, while so much injustice happens in places that most people never have to see. Simple things like storing fresh meat and vegetables, or getting a drink, or flushing the toilet, is something that I take for granted every day, while in a large portion of the world, these luxuries take a lot of work, and in some cases, these simple necessities just aren’t available. Even going to bed on a soft mattress at night, without the fear of being attacked, or my roof caving in because of all the rain, is something I don’t even think about when I live in this abundant country.
How do I live in a culture where these things are commonplace? Am I wrong to enjoy these wonderful gifts? What is my responsibility, with all this wealth?
I wrestled with a lot of these questions last year, and have continued to mull them over in my head through my studies and work habits this year. What does Jesus say about the rich? What defines a rich person, anyway? Do I ever have a “right” to live comfortably? Alternatively, is God’s intention for my life to be a socks-and-sandals gypsy-skirt missionary lady with seventy five adopted children and a sworn life vow to abstain from chocolate and other luxuries until poverty is eradicated worldwide?
I’m not writing this because I know the answers; if anything, the more I think, the more questions I have.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
One thing I know, is that My Heavenly Father doesn’t want me to live so comfortably that it is at the expense of others. God has blessed me abundantly with things that, most days, I don’t even think about. And with great blessing comes great responsibility. The challenge is, how am I living out a life of love?
“With what shall I come before the LORD
And bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
With ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
And to walk humbly with your God.”
I can go to church and take communion and go through the motions as much as I like – and yes, perhaps I will still be saved and I will enjoy eternal paradise with God- but is this really all Jesus has offered us, in coming to earth over two thousand years ago? If this were the case, why did he wait until his thirties to die? Jesus came to display to the world the very character of God. I think it would be a great shame to read the Bible, say a prayer of salvation, and never really follow the Scripture’s teachings in the life we’ve already been blessed with right now.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
To loose the chains of injustice
And untie the cords of the yoke,
To set the oppressed free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
And to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–
When you see the naked, to clothe him,
And not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
And your healing will quickly appear;
Then your righteousness will go before you,
And the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
You will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
With the pointing finger and malicious talk,
And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
And satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
Then your light will rise in the darkness,
And your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
And will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
Like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
And will raise up the age-old foundations;
You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
I don’t write this blog to condemn, because I’ve got no idea what I’m doing with my own life half the time. These are things I’m considering in my mind as I make preparations and as people pray for me before I go. I don’t believe I’m called to be the socks-and-sandals missionary lady living in a hut in some obscure country for the rest of my life. I’m beginning to realise, though, that whatever context I am put in, be it suburban life in Australia, a hotel in Nauru, or a house in a rural dusty town in Cambodia, I should not be apathetic or complacent with the blessings I have been given.
…Now it’s just a challenge to live that out.