I know you have been waiting to hear my response to Jessica’s question. To begin, I would like to say that I did not know the impact her question would have on my reflection. I struggled to reconcile the seeming two split worlds I was observing in Nairobi Kenya. The pictures will tell the story: On the one hand were modern malls equipped with tanning tables, all kinds of modern conveniences exotic cosine, expensive cars and even playing grounds for kids. On the other hand were sprawling slums with huge populations, no running water, terrible craters on parts of the roads and stagnated traffic with motorists devising their own traffic rules as they wish. I was deeply moved by the contrast and my eyes were immediately drawn to it as I will reflect on my village experiences in the coming blog posts.
As I watched and experienced life in Nairobi after a few days, I began to draw from the two world views that have come to dominate my thinking lately; the Hebrew holistic world view and the Greek split world view (spirit and matter). I wondered whether the split reality embodied in the Greek philosophy which has also been reflected in Christian theological systems enables people to live in two different realities with minor conflicts if any. I heard people talk about their faith in terms that focused simply on their heavenly yearnings and very little of their earthly realities which bothered me a great deal. I was bothered partly because my reading of the scriptures has increasingly led to a discovery and appreciation of the wholeness of the creation which is embodied in the Hebrew view of reality.
Yes the Scriptures also talks about heaven and earth as separate realities but Jesus taught us to pray “may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I believe that the New Testament proclaims the coming of the kingdom of God here on earth which began with the coming and ministry of Jesus. This I believe is the reason apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church telling them that God already made known to them and by extension us the “mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment -to bring all things into heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph. 1:9-10).
I believe as Paul did that this “fulness of time” began with Jesus’ kingdom announcement and embodiment through his life, death and resurrection. This kingdom message and embodiment in Jesus of Nazareth I believe is the mission of the church which impacts the created yet fallen world. The coming of Jesus was the world’s greatest event because it signaled the beginning of a decisive move by God to redeem the creation and make all things new and restore the creation to its original intent. As I looked around what I saw stood in contrast to what I have just described; I saw the split world reality embodied there more than the holistic reality that I believe the Gospel message proclaims.
This seeming state of affairs which I believe is not only unique to Africa raised several deep questions in my mind and heart. The situation invoked a further debate within me on two separate levels; personal and church. On a personal level it brought to surface the issues that I have wrestled with and continues to wrestle with in regards to my faith confessions and convictions on the on hand and how I actually live my live as a confessing Christian on the other. I tried to review what I believe about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and glanced at my life and I found a huge gap. On the second level, I reflected on what I believe about the church and its mission to the world and what I experience in church life even as a pastor and once a gain I found a contradiction. The discovery here is not new to me and faith life in general but coming back here heightened it even more as I looked around me and the split reality dominated by experiences. I will continue to ponder why what we know and believe and what we ought to do because of what we believe seem to be contradictory. Apostle Paul and other church leaders have wrestled with this question throughout the history of the church. I do believe that when this separation or contradiction between faith and life occurs, it diminishes my capacity and the church’s capacity to be faithful to God and as such our it diminishes out capacity to impact the world. This ought to really bothers us as Christians.
In Ephesians Paul invites Ephesian Christians to examine what they believe about God asserting that their belief about God ought to impact what what they do for God. If this is the case then we need to reexamine what we really believe about God and the church and their respective mission. I have chosen the book of Ephesians for my reflection during my sabbatical and time in East Africa. I agree with Paul that my faith convictions as a christian matters which is the message I see in the book of Ephesians.
In Ephesians we learn for example that in Jesus God is at work and as a result;
1- The creation has been united in Christ Jesus (chapter 1), no more split reality
2- The walls of division between Jews and Gentiles fell (Chapter 2) and so should our walls today
3- There is unity between wife and husband (Chapter 5) this unity is beautiful and is a reflection of the new relationship between the church and her redeemer Jesus Christ.
I will use this line of thought to guide me in my reflection as I move from the city of Nairobi kenya to the villages of Nyabange Tanzania and Migori Kenya from here on. I will also include pictures that aided my reflection on each post. stay tuned