I posted last week about my journey from a Christian faith that’s focused purely on personal salvation to a faith that’s about giving and making an impact in the world we live in.
Ten years ago, I attended Bible College in New Zealand. One of our lecturers (for whom I have a huge amount of respect) related to us his stories of his time in Nagaland. He spoke of the amazing time he had ministering there, and of the powerful revival that had seen over 90% of the local population become Christians. It sounded incredible, exotic and mystical.
Fast forward to 2013. I was overjoyed when I learnt that one of my colleagues in Australia was originally from Nagaland, and I settled down to talk about this over lunch with him. It was incredible to hear the story of the Naga people – a people divided between Myanmar and India, oppressed in both countries, and living in extreme poverty. The disconnect between my colleague’s Nagaland and the Nagaland I had heard about a decade ago was incredible. I traveled to Myanmar shortly after this meeting and witnessed poverty in other areas of the country first-hand. It was heartbreaking.
I’ve done a lot of reflection on how two people can see the same things and have such different impressions. How could my lecturer have seen the poverty around him and not stopped to consider the need of those in front of him? He seemed only to remember the spiritual impact of his trip. In the Bible, James clearly says:
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”
James goes on to say that faith without works is dead. I finally reconciled these two different views of Nagaland I had recieved. One person only looked at the spiritual aspect of those around him, whilst the other chose to also see the thing we can so often overlook: the physical need right in front of him.
We need a Christian narrative that puts the needs of the community at the forefront of our faith. We need to return to the way Jesus showed us – ministering to the sick, the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed.
And it starts with you and me.