If you profess it, then possess it!

Posted by at 24 January, at 11 : 44 AM Print

By Neals Chitan

The term sanctuary is used predominantly today as a noun, referring to a large so-called “holy” open-concept room where weekly worship occurs. However, sanctuary was anciently used as a verb to describe an action of giving protective immunity to a criminal or person in trouble who was seeking refuge from the long arms of the law or an enforcer. You see, once the individual got into the sanctuary he was temporarily immunized as long as he remains in there. This routine was referred to as “seeking sanctuary” or “giving sanctuary,” and symbolized the relevance of the church in the everyday life of its community.

However, in this modern 21st century era, things have changed. Parishioners are financially bled to death as luxurious multi-million edifices/sanctuaries with their state of the art equipment, furniture and burglar-proof digital security systems stand across our cities daring the community to trespass. Warning signs outlining the pending penal consequences to trespassers are posted on the six-days-a-week locked doors of houses of refuge, only to be swung in motion once a week for worship. And so, the community ownership of the church is lost, reducing it to merely a weekly meeting place for a membership who seldom comes from the neighborhood.

With such an uninvolved dry-boned weekly ongoing routine like that, who can convince the people of the community that the church is interested in their wellbeing? Oh yes, I have heard about church programs with objectives like “demonstrating love to the community” and “welfare of community”, but do they understand the implication of these terms? As a matter of fact most of the times these programs are just about evangelizing and proselytizing to increase membership and economic power and not really about the genuine care of people and their daily issues and struggles.

People walk into our congregations and we stretch the hand of greeting, asking, “how are you doing?” But do we really want the answer to this question? Can we handle the real answers should these visitors begin to off load the issues they are facing, and how they are really doing? Do we have things in place to deal with the reality and give sanctuary to these hurting souls?  Or is “how are you doing” just the correct thing to say?

Then we sing the closing hymns, say the benediction and leave till next week, while at the doorsteps of our churches for the next six days; youth are murdered, homes are burglarized and women are raped, yet we go on singing “it is well with my soul” as we turn a blind eye.

It baffles me how an institution which claims to be so heavenly minded and “Marching to Zion” can be so oblivious and callous to the real needs its community. Isn’t the holistic restoration of mankind the objective of the church? Then where are they when the gun shots ring out, when the prostitutes solicit business on their doorsteps or a teenager is bullied and beaten to death in a park? How are we going to solve the problem when the ones commissioned to preach deliverance to the captive and bind up the wounds stay behind closed doors in their weekend’s best, performing their predictive rituals and routines?

It’s wake up time! If you are going to profess it, then possess it!! Get off from behind your stained glass windows and alarm-set doors and feed the homeless, counsel the emotionally broken, love the fatherless and help heal your community.

But instead, all we hear is a call to pray, and by the way, as a committed Christian I cannot ever dream of doubting the power of prayer, for I have personally experienced the results of this vital divine connection, but we must never become so routinely triggered that our only answer is “let’s pray.”

As a boy growing up in church we were always told that we are the hands and feet for God. We were told of heartwarming stories where individuals were used by God to answer the prayers of other, yet we kneel and give it to Jesus without getting up and say “Jesus, make me as an instrument of your will.”

Governments are now calling on the church to put their faith into practice and open their doors to engage the community and I applaud my own faith community, the SDA Church, and its involvement in the community, locally, regionally and internationally.

I have seen and experienced the community impact of SDA churches in Jamaica, Grenada, England, the USA and Africa, and as I currently write from St. Vincent and the Grenadines I have seen the involvement of the Fancy SDA Church in bringing social empowerment and solace to its grief stricken community in the aftermath of a school bus tragedy that left five high school students dead, two missing and several wounded.

Let me say thanks to that faith community for the nurturing and training that has empowered one of its sons to be the hands of God and make an international social impact on communities around the world, and I pledge to continue till the breath leaves my body.

But it doesn’t stop there!! Like David, although we need to pray, we must steadily move forward to attack the socially dysfunctional Goliaths that are threatening our communities and holding God’s children at ransom!

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