Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We are Hostages!

Tragic is the main word for it. A policeman taking hostages, killing many of them and being shot dead as well.

Incomprehensible, as well, could describe the whole incident. That a man should have serious grievances and run out of legal means to seek redress. And he, one among many, in a country swimming in corruption.

Shameful, finally, could best label the event for posterity. How else to describe mishandling a crisis situation that obviously involved what is totally wrong, not just with one person, but also with an organization, a society and a whole nation. We must all bow in shame for what happened and what will still happen to us.

Not that we must feel the shame and bear the guilt of one man’s misfortune and misadventure. But we must, at least, consider how we have absolutely failed to recognize, as individuals and as a nation, how God is using such events as this as well as floods, disasters, rebellion, massacres and senseless murders to wake us up to His ways.

For even the righteous - like Job, blameless though he was -- humbled themselves at the turn of events that lead to their desperate condition before humans and before God. Are we ready to listen finally to the voice of Heaven, just as we are so eager to read and consider the words of those who reported on the latest tragedy that has befallen us, one tragedy more among so many more that will come as long as we continue to miss the lesson? Or are we so inured to the pain and the shame that nothing can move us to act and to get our act together?

Much has been said about the hostage-taking event. So much blame, hatred and bickering has transpired that any more thought would be rubbing salt and pepper into our swollen eyes. But we do need to try to see what God may have to say about the event and about us as a people. Of course, it is too presumptuous that a person should speak for God, let alone assume that he has some inkling as to how God thinks or why He even allowed such a dastardly incident to occur. Given that nobody seems to have that privilege or position, then it behooves any Christian to come out with what insights he might have derived from it.

Now, these insights do not try to explain the whats, whys and hows of the incident as if this were some investigative journalism report. They do not endeavor to provide the reader a valid description of the thoughts and motivations of those people involved in the event. They simply apply and integrate into the circumstances, as much as possible, the spiritual principles of righteous living, of suffering and of sacrifice that the Lord Jesus taught and exemplified in the Gospel.

All pain and suffering arise from the turmoil that dwells in our bodies as well as in our souls. While doctors talk of a bio-chemical imbalance that may lead some to commit insane deeds and theologians speak of evil spirits that may enslave people’s spirits to cause them to do vile things, we can only see the end-result of bloodied victims and the ensuing grief and shame. Even our tears are nothing but mineral compounds in our bodies issuing from some deep emotional processes in our minds and hearts. What makes us humans then is a conglomeration of all physical and non-physical experiences we simply call reality or real-time living.

Today we may celebrate; tomorrow we might grieve. Today we may feel triumphant; tomorrow we might bow in shame. For the past few weeks, we have been grieving and feeling shame. Not the words of a police general or a president can remove that gnawing feeling that we are all hostages inside an archipelagic bus and there is a crazed person vent on blowing us up into as many pieces as there are islands in our country. The question is this: Are people praying hard enough for God to save them from final annihilation or are they more concerned about how they look or sound on camera and on the radio? It is the same question we could ask about the people in Noah’s time: Were they more afraid of a Flood or of not being able to enjoy the pleasures of sin?

A hostage-taker has one primary purpose: to obtain something that is worth killing and dying for. In that one case, the man wanted his job back. In the case of our country, Satan wants nothing more than to continue to rule – no, to have FINAL and TOTAL dominion over God’s people in these islands. A divided Christian nation like ours has been a fertile ground for so many varying teachings and practices that it is a veritable cornucopia for those who would want to promote whatever they may want. Name any belief or faith that you can mention in any other country and pretty sure we have a better (or worse) copy of it. Cults? Plenty around to choose from. Satanic or spiritist groups? There could be one in your neighborhood. Denominationalism? It’s been with us for many centuries.

What exactly do these have to do with taking hostages?

Like a man who would destroy others and even himself in a fiery confrontation, God’s enemies have surrounded our islands and taken us captive and are just about ready to fight it out to a fiery end just as long as they can take as many as they can with them to hell. And there is only one simple strategy they use – so simple we fail to see through it and how we have fallen into its snare: WORSHIP.

Before explaining fully, let us go back to Job. Job was a righteous man who worshiped God and served people. Only one thing stood between him and God: his inability to see the power of God to rebuild and to renew. That is, in his deep suffering (Job talked of His “joy in unrelenting pain”), he blamed God for ever bringing him into this world. Until he realized his mistake, Job did not truly understand what loving and worshipping God meant.

The point in this is that Job, in the throes of extreme pain and great loss, continued to hold on to God – or, he let go for a while but grabbed back His hand in the end. Job could have taken his wife’s advise: Curse God and die! But as a righteous man, he said, “For all the good He has done, how can we do evil against God?”

But most hostage-takers do not have the wisdom of Job. Not even many ordinary people. They claim to worship God but at the smallest sign of trouble, they turn their backs on God, blame Him or even do evil things in His name. God, who has control over leaders and nations, can surely solve any person’s problem if one truly believes and worhips Him. (Why was not a spiritual person brought in to pacify the hostage-taker? Because we never look at things as essentially issues of the human spirit. We only let guns talk to guns because our spirits speak with as much violence.)

A person who truly knows and loves God will want to worship Him with his or her whole life. But since we, as a nation, have lost the real meaning and importance of true, spiritual worship, we have ended up being pierced here and there with many ills and troubles. Many of our leaders do not truly represent our aspirations because they are self-oriented and not God-oriented. Many of our laws are vested-interest-motivated and not people-and-progress-oriented. Our social-economic programs are material-wealth-based and not spiritual-wealth-based. Even churches continue to vie for worldly attention with their well-oiled and monolithic organizations and buildings. Acceptable and pleasing worship has been either marginalized or compartmentalized.

In short, as a nation, we do not truly worship God. We speak His name during Lent, Ramadan, Christmas and other feasts; but we do not honor Him with our hourly talk and our daily lives. We petition God’s help when we utter prayers in the assembly and in our services but we do not need Him (or want Him around) when we take bribes, steal, murder or commit adultery. The hostage-taker took innocent hostages, at least; but Satan holds all of us guilty sinners in his overcrowded bus.

And do not fool yourself into believing that God has the best rescue troops capable of saving us from Satan. All those who died in the Flood failed to see the Ark as their salvation. God has been sending His rescue troops over and over again in the past as well as in the present in many forms and many ways. But we have always been so blind to see His way out.

Here is the sure escape plan for everyone: Stop what you are doing and listen to God and God alone. The wily hostage-taker will show how "good" he really is. He will free some (because they see what he is really up to) and even give food to those that remain. He will continue to take control of your life because you allow him to. The moment you let go of his control over your life, then, you have a chance to escape. But it takes great courage and wisdom not to fall for his sweet ways – he is a sheep in form, but a wolf in substance. Hostages who die are those who continue to behave like lambs among wolves. They end up being devoured! Be a dove that can fly.

Too long have we fooled ourselves into believing that we worship God and that we please Him with our lives. If so, we would have been the most progressive and prosperous nation in Asia. For how can God forsake a nation that truly loves Him? And how could a nation as pure as pearl in the beginning become so stained and still think that with all her sins she can still please God? Alas, we have been pleasing only ourselves for so long and not God.

One man – a hostage-taker -- has shown what kind of people and nation we truly are. We have all reason to blame him and to forget about what we might have appeared to all nations. Or we can look deeply into our souls and ask if we truly deserve to be mocked and blamed for having allowed this thing to happen.

God once promised that the one He loves He will never put to shame. Either we continue to delude ourselves into thinking that God loves and continues to bless us or we finally realize that He is giving us ultimate warnings against continuing in our sordid ways.

The Lord of Hosts never takes hostages; He only wants willing captives of His love.