God's Word: Source of Justice, Reconciliation and Peace
Bible Sunday Message delivered by Jonathan V. Exiomo,
Th.D., President, Alliance Graduate School
I come in the capacity as member of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Bible Society and as a friend of Pastor Bernadette Morales.
The Philippine Bible Society (PBS) has endeavored to introduce Filipinos to the transforming power of Gods Word. One such program which PBS has spearheaded over the years is the celebration of the National Bible Week (NBW) and National Bible Sunday.
Transformation and National Bible Week
The yearly national celebration was declared by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos through Presidential Proclamation No. 2242 signed on October 27, 1979, to encourage the reading of the Holy Bible as an instrument to develop moral character, personal discipline, understanding and unity among our people.
The celebration was moved from November to every last week of January when President Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation No. 44 in 1986, where she urged radio and television stations throughout the country to air, and the print media to feature, Bible readings everyday during the week. Her proclamation was later followed up by President Fidel V. Ramos with Presidential Proclamation No. 1067 which recognized that national attention be focused on the important role played by the reading and study of the Bible in molding the moral fiber of our citizenry.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reinforced these Proclamations in a message, where she stated: The Holy Bible is the most beautifully written book in the world. Gods love lives in its pages. As we celebrate National Bible Week, let Gods Word be our sanctuary, especially in this year of urgent change and fervent hope. Lets work for national solidarity through prayer and hard work (PBS)
The Bible is the written Word of God. It has the power to change individuals, families, communities, and nations. The Philippine Bible Societys vision for the Philippines is that we will be a nation anchored upon Gods Word that our people will honor and respect God, will have a strong sense of justice, are economically sufficient, and would enjoy real, lasting peace (PBS).
In view of this affirmation, may I invite you to reflect with me the Word from 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 as the basis for our topic, Gods Word: Source of Justice, Reconciliation, and Peace.
“The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is not a problem of physics but of ethics. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil from the spirit of man.” –Albert Einstein
How does this problem in the heart and mind happen in everyday experience? Let us have a bit of understanding this phenomenon.
Human being is said as one who has the joy of yes in the sadness of the finitude. What does it mean by this paradox? To explore on this further, I ask, how is it that as one is granted the freedom to do whatever s/he likes in life, at the end of the day, comes the realization that there is a gasp for more to satisfy the apparent infinite longings? Why is it that this freedom to do whatever one likes to do in a world of no restrictions has only caused one to yearn for more. And so together, we share a common human experience that freedom without restrictions would only cause us to know our impoverishment in the midst of profuse possibilities.
We move and have our being from God. By that it means we derived from God the nature of a good sense of judgment. Fundamental with this relationship with God is this candor from alienated self. We were coherent. There was collaboration of our thought, feeling, will, action in every decision we were suppose to make. As a consequence, God saw the coherence good.
But that good sense of judgment, that freedom from divided-self, that symmetry of thought, feeling, will, and action were all put to test. The first test is the test of appetite. This test is to find out how collaboration operates in a context where sarap becomes the frame of reading our experiences. Every fruit you can eat but not this one. It was to find out if a human person retains character in so far as s/he is able to discern when confronted with options using appetite as the reading lens for decision making.
But notice how appetite baffled the infinite options of living. First, there is the tendency to narrow focus, in this case, the apple? Second, the more intense the focus to one, the greater the desire for the prohibited. Third, the more focused one is to the prohibited, the greater is the irrationality. Fourth, the greater the irrationality one has, the more incoherent the supposed synchrony of thought, feeling, will, and action. Fifth, the result is the distortion of synchrony—as one consents with the apparent obligation of the forbidden.
During the time of the Apostle Paul, the situation is no different. The divided self took many kinds of forms as the Corinthian Christians used appetite as the framework for reading their relationship with one another.
The text explained:
For example, the apostle Paul has had an experience of encountering the divided-self as seen in the love-hate relationship with the Corinthian church that he himself established. Paul refers to the Corinthian Christians as saints or holy ones, but they were not exactly saintly. We know from I Corinthians that they had various kinds of problems: I disease that inspires the party spirit and squabbling: I belong to Cephas, Apollos, Paul, Christ (1Cor 1:12); He intervenes to restrain wealthier members from trying to gain advantage over others by bringing legal action against poorer members in pagan courts (1 Cor 6:1-11); He arbitrates conflicts concerning marriage, reminding them that God has called them to peace (1Cor 7:15); He cautions the ones with knowledge to be considerate of scruples of the weak regarding anything associated with idols (1 Cor 8:1-13); He rebukes the entire congregation for celebrating a Lords Supper that leaves poor members humiliated and hungry (1 Cor 11:17-34) (Garland, 292).
Then there is the serious threat of someone in Corinth who begun to oppose Paul and question his being an apostle. Paul considered this problem so important that he returned to Corinth. But he was not able to solve the problem. The Corinthian Christians (at least their leaders) took the side of the offender rather than of Paul. So Paul left with a heavy heart and wrote to them a very painful letter, in which he castigated them with very strong language. And the result? Wonder of wonders, they changed their mind and did exactly what Paul wanted them to do. In fact, they reprimanded the offender and were ready to cast him out of their community. But fortunately for the offender, Paul wrote another letter, in which he praised the Corinthians for doing what was right and at the same time pleading with them to forgive the offender and restore him to their fellowship, (see 2 Corinthians 2:5ff), (Aricheas notes).
In the context of disharmony between profession and practice, between being and becoming, between ideology and ethics, what has the Word of God to say?
The Apostle Paul demonstrated to us ways of engaging conflict in self, others, and situations in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20. By doing so He makes the Word becomes the source for Justice, Reconciliation, and Peace:
First way of Engagement is that, When there is Conflict with People Justice should be at Work through Worldview Transformation
How is this reflected in the text?
Paul is saying, we no longer perceive our relationship in accordance with the standards and values that derive from living as if physical life in this world is all that exists. In other words, we stop estimating someone on the basis of human standards. Some philosophers call this standards the primary passions of existence, namely, possession, power, and worth. In the language of the Apostle Paul these human standards are faulty because they are based on externals like heritage, intelligence, wealth and social status (2 Corinthians 11:22; 1 Corinthians 1:26) (Belleville, 154).
Instead, the love of Christ is our framework for reading our human fallibility. We experience newness in Christ. In Christ we become a new creation: the old is gone and the new has come. The old is exemplified by the Corinthians themselves through the wrong things they were doing. Furthermore, the old is exemplified by Pauls relationship with the Corinthians that led Paul to castigate them with strong language. The old is exemplified by the terrible relationship that Paul had with the Corinthians, and the terrible relationship that the Corinthians had with Paul and with one another. The old is enmity, hatred, division.
So, how can one escape the quagmire of the old paradigm? It is this . . .
Second way of Engagement is that When Conflict in self is Horizontally impossible to Solve then Reconciliation should be Vertically Supplied
“I’m staggered by the question of what it’s like to be a multimilionaire. I always have to remind myself that I am.” –Bruce Willis
“You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” –Albert Einstein
What is this level beyond self? It is the new thing. And what is this new thing? The new is characterized by reconciliation. And what is reconciliation? It is, as the Good News Translation puts it, becoming friends instead of enemies. Clearly the text tells us that this reconciliation is a gift from God. God has made this possible through Christ. And how did this happen? God made Christ, who is sinless, share our sin, or even bear our sin, so that we share the righteousness of God, that is, God declares us not guilty and at the same time restores us into a right relationship with God. It is this vertical dimension that makes possible the horizontal dimension: because God has reconciled us to himself, we can now be reconciled to others and with one another (Aricheas notes).
Having experienced the reconciliation granted by God through Christ, What are we expected to do?
The Third way of Engagement is that When Conflict in self is Solved We are to Appropriate the Righteousness of God as the ground for Peace
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. v20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. v21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Now this message is not only for the church; it is in fact a message for the world. This is made clear in v. 19:Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ.
The world needs to hear this message. And it can only hear this message if we in the church recognize that this message has been given to us to proclaim to the whole world, and to appeal to all people to accept this gift of reconciliation. As v. 20b says clearly: We plead on Christs behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends. (Aricheas notes).
The Text Applied
How does this passage apply to our situation in the Philippines? What can this passage teach us?
We are aware of the situation in our country. We are like the Corinthian Christians. Our divisions show up in many places. We are divided in politics and in ideology. There is violence and armed conflict in many parts of our beloved land. As a result, people die, children and women suffer, and many parts of our country are in chaos. Unfortunately, the divisions and conflicts in the world are also seen within the church. The church should be remaking the world in the image of Christ, but instead, the church is being remade in the image of the world! In other words, we in the church have failed to be the image of Christ to the world (ibid).
There is therefore a real need for us in the church to rediscover for ourselves this message of reconciliation, and to make it a reality within our fellowship. There is a need to submit to Christ once again in a dynamic way, so that we can experience the newness that he gives to those who are in union with him. Through him, we in the church can experience anew reconciliation. And every time this happens, we are enabled by God to go to all people in all four corners of our country and say to them: Let God change you from enemies into friends, (Ibid).
Over the years, PBS has contributed towards attainment of justice, reconciliation, and peace through the Bibles printed and distributed.
We thank God for the participation of this Church through your generous contributions towards the printing of the Bibles. God bless you!