Let’s Be Counter Cultural, Stand with those on the Peripheries!

We pause to take a moment to remember and reflect on two great African Saints this week, Saints Monica and her son Augustine. These two saints of the early church even today guide us to be a church that is lovingly patient and lovingly drawing us deeper into the love of Christ where our hearts can truly find rest.

In St Monica we see a counter cultural value one of patience.

Patience

“If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25 ).

In a world obsessed with real-time data, fast-developing news stories, viral momentum and constant movement, it’s become increasingly hard to wait—simply to be still. Being patient is a countercultural act of trusting in God and accepting the fact that some things are beyond our control.

When our society values continuous work, efficiency, action and interaction while also trivializing rest, silence and stillness, it can be increasingly difficult to step away from everything. Unplugging, taking a break, waiting and listening for God to speak is a surprisingly radical accomplishment.

Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 ).

After relationships have failed us, communities have hurt us, institutions have betrayed us, organizations have manipulated us, governments have disappointed us and religions have damaged us, it’s hard not to be cynical and pessimistic about pretty much everything.

But for those who have an attitude of hope inspired by Jesus, there’s a sense of meaning, purpose and optimism toward life. This hope, despite the chaos of an ever-changing world around us, anchors us to Christ—allowing us to navigate through life even though it’s filled with uncertainty.

Faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

In an infinitely complex universe filled with unlimited perspectives, it’s hard to believe in anything. Thus, it’s becoming less common for people to hold passionate convictions about any person, thing, idea or philosophy.

Faith doesn’t mean there’s an absence of doubt, mystery, or complexity, but it allows you to have confidence in something—a relationship with someone. To invest your trust and hope in any one thing is notable enough, but to have faith in an unseen, unquantifiable, supernatural God is one of the most countercultural acts imaginable.

A church that abandons the poor might well be financially viable. It’s just that it would no longer be the Church of Jesus Christ. If we abandon the poor, we abandon God. If we fail to proclaim the good news to the poor, we lose the right and the authority to proclaim the good news to anyone, anywhere. Bishop Philip North, Bishop of Burnley

There is no doubt that most Christians want to see the lives of the dispossessed and marginalised transformed. But how is that achieved? This is the challenge that Common Good thinking raises: is change most effectively achieved through advocacy, or through relationship? The Church’s ability to play its part in solving social and economy poverty, injustice and human need looks unconvincing when it loses touch with the very communities who are living these everyday realities.

The Church should not shrink from finding ways to serve and proclaim God’s Word more boldly with people who may otherwise never hear His truth, however challenging it may be. Engaging in the hardest areas will grow the Church in spirit and body. 

The principle of subsidiarity is key: clergy and church members play a vital but supporting role, enabling local leadership. In this way the Church becomes a vehicle for flourishing human relationships by sharing the joy of Christ, inspiring and supporting local people to create solutions to local problems.

This is what the Church needs to be, but when its strategy effectively gives up on these localities and traditional cultures, it withdraws from its true purpose and its calling to support the flourishing of all peoples. By failing to keep the poor at the heart of its relationships, the Church risks impoverishing itself, putting its very mission in jeopardy.

By proclaiming God’s Word and serving with generosity and compassion the people those on the peripheries who are most vulnerable and rejected, churches will reinvigorate not just communities of the left-behind, but also the mission of the Church and its calling to the world .

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