“I urge, the, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone …” 1 Timothy 2.1 (NIV)
As we approach Advent, tragedies occur all over the world. Sydney saw its rare hostage crisis where one of my friends’ colleague lost her life. Equally tragic is the death of 141 people, mostly children, in Pakistan after the Talibans launched a revenge attack against a school. Meanwhile, debates still continue among Christians on whether torture is a legitimate practice against enemies. As I look around, people give different reactions through social media and newspaper op ed columns. I notice something peculiar.
I notice that while Christians will continue to justify torture as a valid method against enemies, there’s some call for prayer for people in Australia. However, there’s little to no call for prayer for the families of the dead in Pakistan. While we construct logically sophisticated justification (even from scripture) on why we can torture, many of us Christians don’t even care to pray for these Pakistani victims. Why?
I can think of thousands of reasons, but I bet one glaring reason is the way we western Christians think of the world. Sydney, Australia, a city that deserves our prayer, is western enough. After all, the Aussies are “better” allies than the Pakistanis. So we pray for them but not the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis belong to the “other”. In fact, aren’t all Pakistanis Muslims and if so (I’m not saying that they are), aren’t they are political enemies? If their children die, they can go straight to hell where our enemies belong. This simplistic and warped worldview has colored our priorities to the degree that it has affected the way we pray and the way we worship. While we shout in favor of separation of church and state, our politics continue to cloud our judgment and more importantly, our spirituality.
In our response towards crisis and in our prayer life, we demonstrate the kind of value we hold. Actually, many may come up with thousands of verses to justify this and that, but some verses like the one I quoted above is straightforward as part of the Christian worship. If you don’t believe it and can read Chinese, go read my three works on the Pastoral Letters. If you don’t believe me, go read some commentaries on 1 Timothy. In this case, our worldview causes us to make disgusting, xenophobic and worst of all, anti-Christian choices, right in our worship. This begs the question whether our ethics matches the kind of God we worship. This is an important concept to contemplate during Advent or any other time. Do we even worship the same God the author of 1 Timothy worshipped or do we worship some other version of God? Before we can heal the world, perhaps we need healing first.