STATELESSNESS, THE DEFAULT STATE & STATUS OF CHRISTIANS?

A couple of days ago my daughter, who is a professor of law, had shared with us her recent lecture topic: Reduction of Statelessness in South Asia. It set me thinking about the issue of statelessness and its implications.

The international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country.

A stateless person is someone who, under national laws, does not enjoy citizenship – the legal bond between a government and an individual – in any country. In simple terms, a stateless person doesn’t have a belonginess or a sense of being part of a people. They do not belong anywhere and nobody has a care over or for them, by legal right or otherwise.

Being part of a community bestows identity as well as a sense of well-being because of the awareness of being part of a bigger whole. When some event happens, let’s say a disaster, then there is solace in knowing that we are not alone. There is comfort in knowing that we are all sailing in the same boat and others are working to help us.

This is why refugees so desperately seek to have citizenship status, so that they can become part and parcel of a country. They look for the care and concern that comes from being part of a nation. They seek the covering that comes from being part of a people. They yearn for the fellowship and friendship that comes from belonging to a community. They want a life that is solid and established instead of living on the margin of it.

Citizenship confers identity and recognition as people who have rights and legal standing. They are no longer nameless or lumped together as refugees, but exist in a sovereign state where they can carve out a life for themselves. Citizenship gives them security and settlement so that they are no longer aliens or wanderers.

In the Bible, Israel was birthed as a nation when they were delivered from bondage out of Eygpt and received God’s laws at Sinai. They became an acknowledged and accepted sovereign state only when they settled down and were established in a land. They were constituted as a nation and acquired an identity as a people only when they were rooted in a place and belonged to it.

Ancient India was made up of a number of disjointed states and kingdoms, becoming a united nation only after independence. A common flag, a code of conduct and a declaration provided statehood. Being a nation or state brings unity and imparts a sense of belonging and identity as a community.

Being part of a community and to savor the privileges of belonging is an essential need of the human psyche. Human beings need companionship, to belong and be together with others. One of the tenets and traits of the postmodern era is the need to be part of a group. That’s why, more than ever before, people are willing to adopt all sorts of behaviour or habits just to be ‘part of the crowd.’

In Eph 2:19-20 we read that: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In I Cor we read that we have all been baptized to become one body, one people and one community.

The scriptures is clear that all who believe and call on the name of Jesus have been amalgamated into one new humanity, beyond the trappings and confining of caste, creed, color etc. As believers, we have an identity as the people of God living on this earth as the representatives and witnesses of heaven, bonding to live life together as His family and His household. The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian church that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened so as to grasp the riches of His glorious inheritance in His people.

However, many who are born again and baptized in Christ live as aliens, full of an orphan spirit. They move around without no sense of identity since they lack community comprehension. They have no consciousness of the fellowship that comes with being a disciple of Christ. They wander around as refugees, feeling alienated and left out in this world.

The reason for this is two-fold: Either they are ignorant of the fact because they have not been taught of what they inherited in Christ; or they have rejected the fellowship of the saints since it involves responsibility and accountability . The former can be realigned and restored by proper teaching, but the latter are to be pitied since they have no understanding of the riches that identification with a community of faith brings.

Every one who is born of God must live as the beloved Sons and Daughters of the Most High. They need to have an understanding of the family they are part of and the entitlement that comes with bearing His Name.

Unfortunately, many are yet to grasp that they are citizens of the Kingdom of God, the apple of His eye and the people of His love. They are yet to recognise and realize their rights in Christ, the freedom that is their birthright and the authority that is theirs in Christ. They live as orphans, outcasts and ostracized, not as those who are the hope of the whole world.

Statelessness is real in His Church and among His people. Many a person in His Body walks around with the wounds of being aliens and castaways. Being aware of the need for a community of faith is core to living a purposeful life on earth. Being identified with a local family of God will purge the sense of lostness and abandonment in these times. Being committed and dedicated to the Body of Christ, the church of the Living God is of utmost importance in all seasons and turns of life.

Many people of God die, as Sir Walter Scott says (in his poem Breathes there a Man with soul so dead), Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung, because they are stateless ie, not part of a local community of faith or the church of the Lord, sometimes by ignorance but often by choice!

*Pics courtesy google images

BATTLE STRATEGY: COVER YOUR BROTHER’S BACK!

I always love the scene in the movie Gladiator where a band of poorly armed slaves ward off and win over an attack by a group of heavily armed horsemen. They stand shoulder to shoulder and win the fight, simply because they guard each other’s backs and protect one another from danger. What a perfect illustration of what we should do and how we should stand for one another in this battle for spiritual survival!

In Ephesians 6:10-16, there is one part of the body that doesn’t seem to be covered by the armor: the back. The apostle Paul, after describing the various portions of the armor of God, concludes with a request to pray for him and his team that they would be granted the boldness to speak the gospel (Eph. 6:18-20). Prayer is needed not only to activate the armor, but also to provide protective armor and cover for the others’ backs in the warfare against the principalities and powers of darkness!

This passage in Scripture points out that our fight is not against people, but for people, against principalities, powers and rulers of darkness. We are not to fight people but wage warfare against spiritual forces of evil. We are not here to massacre one another nor stab each other in the back, but to fight a common enemy.

In our Christian faith walk, we are all members of the same household bearing His Name, not enemies or rivals. We are blood brothers and sisters, of the same family, bearing the same DNA, the gene of Christ. How can we then compete or clash with one another and anyway, why should we? We don’t have to be jealous nor strive for the attention of our God, for He loves and cares for all of us equally and without partiality.

We all have a Father Whose home is large enough for all of us. We have a Father Who considers each one very special to Him. No one can take another’s place nor can anyone push another out of His heart. Why then do we cross swords and lock horns with one another? He shows no favoritism and He cannot be manipulated or hoodwinked. Why then do we harm and hurt one another?

In this world there is much cutthroat competition and base thievery. In Christ, however, there is much quietness and confidence because of acceptance and acknowledgement. We all have a part and a portion in His Kingdom and His purposes. Why then should we tackle and tussle with one another as though we have to fight for our position with Him?

We have all been given the same commission and the same task: Be a witness for Him and rescue His people from bondage. In this charge, we are all engaged in battle against a common enemy and we must concentrate on defeating him, not one another. Our closing ranks to maintain an united front will be anathema to our wily enemy whose major battle strategy is: Divide and rule! Our unity will sound the death knell to his rule and that’s why he turns us against one another. Foolishly, without understanding this, we resist one another rather than resisting him, the father of lies!

Our prayers, which is our true battleground and combat arena, should serve to provide protective armor for the backs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our prayers are never to be used as weapons to wield or brandish against our own kind. The petition on our knees should not be daggers to stab our kith and kin in the back, but to rout and scatter our common foe. Instead of turning against one another, we need to walk in forgiveness towards one another so that together we can turn against the enemy and prevent him from gaining even an inch of space.

The book Hebrews says that the blood of Jesus spoke better things than Abel’s blood, why? It is because the blood of Abel cried out for vengeance and vindication, while the blood of Jesus calls out and pleads for forgiveness and reconciliation. If this so, we who are His brothers and sisters, called to imitate Him, how can we cry out for retribution and retaliation! That’s what Stephen, the first martyr did, when he prayed for forgiveness for his accusers even as he fell dead under their stones.

What is your blood and voice crying out for – revenge or restitution?

Covering our brother with our love and prayers is a family trait that’s already engraved and ingrained in our very deepest structure. We have been bequeathed with the nature of Christ and all we have to do is to walk in it. All we need to do is accept this fact and live by it!

Then we won’t behave as though we don’t have the same hereditary and heritage!

What if my brother or sister treat me as enemy, even when I don’t? Then you have the opportunity to exhibit the right behavior, even if they don’t! It only proves you are your Father’s child, even if they don’t behave as one!

Point out to them that they are of the same family and have been born of the same root. Ask them if they have been born another blood or borne by another father! Point out their error in love, still holding on to your stance without compromise – always protecting their backs.

Of course, it is not an easy thing to do so, but it is the right thing to do!

In combat, soldiers of a battalion guard each other’s back, especially on an attack mission. They depend on each other and defend each other, watching each other’s back. They become a band of brothers by learning to protect one another against the assault of a common enemy.

If this is the norm in a country’s army, how come we who are already a band of brothers/sisters who have to fight the same foe end up crippling one another and wounding one another?

You are indeed your brother’s keeper!

Let us remember, in a battle we stand together to win the war. United we stand, divided we fall!

When we reach home, we can settle our grievances and our differences!

For now, protect your brother or sister’s back.

Don’t stab them back or stab them in the back!

*Pics: Courtesy unsplash.com

MEN AT REST

https://youtu.be/574GIafKlKA

When we travel by road and cross places where repair work is being done, we normally see the sign “CAUTION. MEN AT WORK”, but we never come across a sign that says “TAKE CARE. MEN AT REST”. Probably the only place we can expect to see something similar is at a cemetery, as an epitaph!

In the fast-paced activity-prone, post-modern world of today, rest is probably the most neglected and sidelined aspect of life. The word rest is often confused with vacation, which is time allotted by an employer for an employee to not be present at work.

Vacation is defined as taking a break from regular work or routine to relax. The concept of sabbatical leave, popular in the corporate world, is different from vacation and has come to mean a time period in which a person does not report to regular work. It is being given a chance to step back from regular routine to focus on personal enrichment and professional development.

Since the fall, rather than drawing security from a relationship with God, men’s self-esteem has become tied to their jobs and their achievements in the workplace. Retirement blues are real for men as they find it hard to live a life disassociated from work. They are prone to ill health and sudden heart attacks that often prove to be fatal.

Work is from God, but being addicted to work and receiving affirmation from the performing of it is detrimental in all respects. Work and rest were meant to be a rhythm of life rather than each of them being an obsession or as a means to self-worth!

Two pictures from the Bible come to mind when considering the aspect of rest for men – Christ asleep in the bottom of the boat and Jonah asleep in the bottom of the ship!

In both instances, a storm is blowing and the vessels in danger of sinking. Both men were resting in apparent oblivion, unaware of the mayhem surrounding them. Both were conscious and confident of God’s care and protection over their lives, yet not in the same way or manner.

One was resting in the calm confidence of doing God’s will and the perfect stillness of being in the core of His purposes. The other was resting in the stupor of knowing that he was out of His will and slept on in the uncaring indifference that continued disobedience brings.

When woken up, one rises up to take complete control of the situation, while the other finds the answer in passive acquiescence of guilt. One commands the winds and the waves into obedience, while the other quells the raging squall and seas through self-immolation! One would even die in obedience to the purposes of God, while the other would rather die than obey God!

Both brought deliverance and praise to God, but the manner in which they did it says much about how a man can find and be in true rest in contrast to pseudo-rest that disobedience brings!

Jonah’s stubbornness in not yielding to God and Christ’s willingness to submit to Him perfectly portrays the struggle in attaining rest by a man!

Christ shows the way to true rest and restfulness, both as God and man. While on earth He was never anxious, flustered or worried, so much so He could say ““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Now, as God and seated on the right hand of the Father, He is waiting patiently for His enemies to become His footstool. Jesus is the perfect example and perfect episode of rest!

The Apostle Paul was also one who walked in this true rest even in the midst of a dangerous storm or when placed in a dungeon. He could encourage his fellow passengers to not despair and sing along with Silas when in a dark place. Daniel and Joseph demonstrate this same rest, even when accused wrongly and thrown into prison.

Scripture declares You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isa 26:3 NIV).

May you our men, fathers, brothers, sons, grandsons as well as mentors and mentees, dwell in the shelter of the Most High so as to find rest in the shadow of the Almighty!

*Pics courtesy shutterstock.com and google images

WAR AND PEACE

https://youtu.be/pVfkXC79nMQ

War and Peace authored by Leo Tolstoy is a chronicle of life as lived alternately between times of war and times of peace. According to critics, War and Peace isn’t just a great novel, but a guide to living. What Tolstoy offers is not so much a set of answers to life’s every situation as an attitude toward living. Tolstoy packs in more human experience than any other work of fiction had ever attempted as he moves seamlessly back and forth between ballrooms and battlefields, marriages and massacres, private lives and public spectacles. The world, Tolstoy shows us in his greatest novel, is a mysterious place where things aren’t always what they seem to be, with today’s tragedy often paving the way for tomorrow’s triumph.

War and peace are two sides of a coin, the coin of life and living, a coin we all indulge in unconsciously. No farmer has been able to enjoy the fruits of his labor or sit under his tree to enjoy his leisure without first waging a war for it. He battles the elements of the earth, the soil, the weather, the predators etc, before being able to gather in a harvest. No mother brings forth life without first struggling through the process of birth before she is able to gaze with calm devotion at her baby. No builder or engineer has ever been able to raise an edifice or build tracks and roads without first grappling with digging holes, unearthing vegetation or other barriers to progress. No student has ever able to rise to the heights of education and learning unless and until he or she has struggled to stay away from sleep or carousing or even laziness. No man can ever hope to become an entrepreneur or businessman before combating discouragement, lack of resources or even loss of vitality. No doctor has ever been able to bring the peace of healing and unless and until he has worked against the ravages of disease and depression. There is no gain without at least a modicum of pain in tussle and conflict.

A classic case exists in the Bible of the twin tools of war and work going hand in hand and being used to achieve a target. Nehemiah, the statesman with sanctions from the Persian King Artaxerxes I to rebuild the broken down walls of Jerusalem, faced stiff opposition from those who couldn’t bear to see the nation rise again. The feud was so bitter and the work so threatened, that he had to command his people to work with one hand and war with the other. He gave instructions to his people to be battle-ready so that in the event of an attack, they would not lose a moment or effort in protecting the work being done. The progress and establishment of the wall depended on their ability to combine work and war. Alternating between war and peace, Nehemiah successfully rebuilt and dedicated the wall making the city safe and a name again.

Warfare then, is not just nation states bashing one another up, but a striving to achieve in all walks and parts of life in some form or another. The real wisdom and acumen lies in being able to know who to war, when to war, how to war and which is the true battleground.

Apostle Paul is very vehement in reiterating that we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. He instructs the church to don on the armor so as to be able to stand against the Devil’s tricks and hold the ground gained by Christ.

He specifically explains that the world or society out there is unprincipled and a case of dog-eat-dog! The world doesn’t fight fair, but, we aren’t supposed to live or fight our battles like that. As the people of God, the tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but for demolishing the entire massively corrupt culture. We are to use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. And that is the crux of the matter – our war and fight is to set the captives free!

War and peace are, therefore, Siamese Twins that are part and parcel of the process of accomplishing anything. You cannot hope to achieve a target unless you are ruthless to everything that would hinder the forward movement of the task. You may not call it a war or battle, but nevertheless, focusing on a goal involves being radical against all that would harm or delay it.

However, we need to be really persuaded and convinced that the real place of battle and the true arena where we war is on our knees and in our prayer closets. We often forget that what is achieved on our knees is what will be set in motion and in reality in the world. What is conceived in the prayer womb is what will be be birthed in the outer realm of the visible world. If your prayer room doesn’t become your war room, then we become walking tombs and white-washed sepulchres. We who are meant to spread the sweet aroma of Christ and life in the world, will unconsciously and unwittingly spread the stench of death in a society already stinking of selfishness, self-centeredness and sadness. The saying ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams’ holds true at all times!

Remember that the greatest Man of Peace, Jesus Christ, was also the One Who was first a man of prayer before He was a man of action. The greatest battles He fought were in secret, in those hidden years of silence of which time it is said ‘During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.’ Through the book of Acts we see that the Apostles automatic and instinctive reaction to opposition, opportunity and open doors was prayer. The church began in prayer and was sustained by prayer all through its history.

Can we at any time then not consider prayer as the mode of war in order that peace may prevail and His will be done and His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven!

*A video blog of this content is available

To read more on prayer, read this book on prayer available on Amazon, both in written and audio form.

*Pics are courtesy of shutterstock
*Please note that no part of this writing, content or video, may be used in any form without permission of the author and writer!

THE MASTER & HIS MASTER PLAN

Do you look around and really wonder,
Who’s in charge for things are being torn asunder.
Is there someone to whom we can render,
Allegiance and loyalty, obedience and surrender?

Yes, there is a One Whom we need to discover,
He is our Master and there’s just no other.
His plans we do need to seek and recover,
Nothing else here on earth is going to matter!

God is on the throne, He’s always had a plan to gather,
A people of His own from whom He’ll never wander.
The apple of His eye who will bear His beautiful name,
That will seek His glory and proclaim His fame.

God sent His son for Him to redeem man,
To fulfil the dictates of His master plan.
With one masterly stroke of His hand,
He’s made him part of His royal clan!

Christ did really step into our cosmic mess
That’s why we gladly celebrate Christmas.
He made us part of God’s eternal business,
Without Him our life is completely senseless!

God has made us through Christ His family,
We are therefore no longer paradesi.
He’s building us to be His church mutually,
Even though we are all truly swadeshi!

Rejoice, you have a role in His Master plan
He’ s fashioning you to be His masterpiece.
Make the choice to follow Him else you’re a deadman
Your real season begins only when you’re His batman!

SABINA TAGORE IMMANUEL
*Poetic form of Sunday Sermon by Ps Manoah Joshi (@manoahj)
© NLAG CHURCH, LITTLE MT, CHENNAI, INDIA