Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us. – Desmond Tutu, An African Prayer book
Over the last few weeks I have found myself returning again to this powerful prayer written by Desmond Tutu. In both my own prayer life and in reflecting on events in the world and our nation, I have found these words both hold and guide me.
This prayer grounds me in God’s goodness, love, light and life. It reminds me that God is stronger than the fear, hate, ignorance and death that swirl around us. It is also an invitation to live as if goodness, love, light and life are strong and active in the world.
With the political climate in Australia becoming more polarised and divisive, with speeches that are ignorant, unhelpful, hurtful and hate-driven seeming to proliferate and many people driven by fear, I find myself thinking about what guides my engagement in community conversation?
In a world where war, hunger, civil unrest and terrorism are ever present, how do I live as compassionate citizen of the world?
As I ponder how to live in a way that shows I trust that God’s goodness, love, light and life are at work in the world, there are four convictions I have about Christian faith that help me.
In God we experience a welcome so broad, so deep and so generous that no one is excluded. There is home and room and welcome for each and all. In Jesus we see someone who restores people to community and expands the welcome at the table through healing, teaching, eating and drinking. Paul reminds us that those things which humanly-speaking are barriers – gender, race and language – are overcome in the grace of Christ.
So if I have been welcomed into the life of God and live by the light of God’s goodness, how do I participate in civil society in ways that expand the welcome? I need to stretch myself to meet people as fellow human beings, crossing over those things that so often divide to hear the stories of the other with respect and openness.
I constantly remind myself that I have been met with generosity by God and so I need to be generous to others. Especially those in my community who feel most excluded and have the least power in our nation.
Both testaments of scripture make it clear that justice towards the most vulnerable and the stranger are central to who God is and how God is at work in the world. There can be no turning from this as Christians.
A core calling is to pursue justice and peace in whatever sphere of influence we have. This means that the welcome and hospitality we offer has to be just; it should be extended first to those most in need of it.
God’s justice, and our pursuit of this justice, gives shape and content to the welcome we offer. It helps us to see where it is we so often failed to be compassionate and stops hospitality becoming merely friendship with those like us. I value this witness in scripture and in the life of the church across the ages. It reminds me to never give up or lose hope, because God’s goodness will prevail and evil will be overcome.
There are a number of parables that speak of the small being significant. Jesus likens the reign of God to a tiny mustard seed, to yeast and to light. I cherish these parables because, in the midst of all that is happening in the world, I can feel overwhelmed and feel my actions are insignificant.
But the reign of God is revealed in all the small actions that transform the whole. Like yeast that leavens the bread, light that shines despite the darkness, or a mustard seed that grows to shelter all the birds of the air – how I live, the attitudes I carry with me, the small acts of generosity, compassion, welcome and love can make a difference to whole. In this way we participate in the victory of Christ’s love which overcomes and is overcoming all darkness and evil.
In all of this I am needful of the grace that convicts me of my own failure and the failure of the church to live for God’s reign. I am needful of the grace that assures me I am forgiven.
This twin awareness keeps me honest, stops me judging and enables me to keep going as I seek to live in a manner that participates more fully in God’s ways of justice, hospitality and hope.