Food 4 Thought by Marcia Dixon MBE

The power of the Gospel

Easter holds a special place in the hearts of Christians – particularly those whose personal and collective histories have elements of major and prolonged suffering. This is one of the reasons why Jesus’ sacrifice – of dying on the cross to save the world from their sins –resonates strongly with Black folk. 

There’s something deeply empowering, serving a Saviour who can relate to human suffering (Hebrews 2:5-18). Conversely, it’s inspiring to know that Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life, so that individuals could experience God’s gift of salvation and live out their God-given purpose. 

Black people have the highest rates of church attendance across the world. However, it’s evident that living in the West is causing a growing number of people within the Black community to lose faith in God, and to challenge the veracity of the Scriptures. And, just like how young Black folk (some) in the ’80s and ’90s believed Christianity to be a “white man’s religion”, that viewpoint remains alive and well amongst today’s young adults – a view heightened by the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

Whilst the reasons for such thinking are understandable – the enslavement and colonialism of Black people is a key cause – a deep dive into Christian history would show that this is not the case. Christianity/the Church was founded on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost fell in the Upper Room and the apostle Peter preached the first gospel sermon in Jerusalem, leading to the conversion of 3,000 people (Acts 2). During the early centuries of Christianity’s growth, it spread to countries in the Roman Empire, Asia Minor and North Africa. Acts 8 has the story of how the apostle Philip baptised the Ethiopian eunuch who then took the faith back to his country. 

Further exploration of Christianity would highlight the inherent power of the Scriptures in bringing about social change and transformation – a fact highlighted by the revelation in 2017 that missionaries who went to the West Indies produced a Bible entitled The Negro Bible: Select Parts of the Holy Bible, Selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands, also known as the Slave Bible.

It had just 232 chapters (compared to the 1189 chapters in a normal Bible) and 90% of the Old Testament and 50% of the New Testament were missing. This ‘bible’ was created so that slave owners would allow the missionaries to preach a watered-down version of Christianity that wouldn’t upset the social order.

Doesn’t this highlight how powerful Christianity is? It’s a faith that inspires both personal and social change because inherent within it are themes of justice, freedom, liberty and equality – concepts that are anathema to those who want to stifle the human spirit and treat others as less than human.

We need to remind ourselves that some of the enslaved were inspired by Scripture to fight for freedom and justice. And that struggle continues today.

So, as we approach this special time in the Christian calendar, let’s be mindful of the ripple effect this miraculous act – of Jesus dying on the cross and being raised from the dead – has had on our community throughout the centuries and continues to have. It’s a faith that brings about personal and societal transformation.

THE ART OF BEING CONTENT

We live in a world where we are constantly encouraged to set and pursue goals – whether for our personal or for our professional lives.

In doing so, it’s always good to remember that whilst there is nothing wrong with having ambition, the Bible warns against selfish ambition (James 3:16) as it can cause disorder and motivate people to act in sinful ways.

Ambition entails having a strong desire to achieve or do something, and often necessitates wanting more either for ourselves or our families – whether it’s finance, influence, new experiences, etc – but we must make sure our desire for more doesn’t draw us into a sinful lifestyle or attitude, and that our desires are aligned with God’s purposes for our life, our work and our mission. 

One of the antidotes to selfish ambition and greed is contentment. It’s where we learn to be happy and satisfied with what we have. Hebrews 13:5 states that believers must ‘keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”’

IMHO, being content doesn’t mean we stop dreaming, aspiring or desiring greater for ourselves, our families or our community. Rather, it means that, as we move forward and seek to accomplish our goals, we allow ourselves to be at peace and at ease with where we are in the now, whilst knowing we are on a journey of moving forward and working towards our God-given ambitions. 

We should also be mindful that God is with us, whether we achieve our goals or not. And the most important thing we can do is to keep our eyes continually on Him and make Him the centre of our lives.

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