Alia Abboud

For we are to God the pleasing aroma  of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. (2 Corinthians 2:15) 

As I was walking down a street the other day, a road sign caught my attention. It read, “Be a voice, not an echo!” I found myself thinking about the current crises in Lebanon, the Middle East, and beyond, and trying to assess whether I was being a voice or an echo. 

As you and I know, so much is happening in the world today that is giving rise to varying and oftentimes conflicting perspectives on important issues that affect the lives of many – all of whom, let’s keep in mind, are created in the image of God. The question is: To what extent is the position of every perspective an indication of an individual’s frame of reference or that of a nation’s? Can it be that what we are witnessing today are people’s and nations’ real beliefs and values, rather than just positions they claim to take? Or is it fear of being isolated, either personally or geopolitically, for standing against the crowd that prompts one to choose to be a mere “echo” rather than a “voice”? Our position cannot be selective. It is not okay for us to condone violence in one situation but not another. 

Again, back to my own perspective! How would Jesus view each situation? I thought to myself that as a Christian, my frame of reference should be God’s Word. And so, I started reflecting on what Jesus would have me do or say in each situation. 

We are bombarded almost every minute of the day with messages that stir up feelings of animosity, anger, and hatred. If we’re not careful, the negative noises around us can sway us in this direction or that, and before we know it, we may forget that our model is Jesus Christ, and that our reference is the Bible.  To quote Bishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Also, Isaiah 1:17,Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause. 

 In Lebanon, we learnt that obedience to God comes first – even before healing! Lebanon is a small country in the Middle East that has had bad experiences with both of its neighbours – Israel and Syria.  Beginning in 2011 with the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon, the Church found itself between a rock and a hard place: on the one hand, welcoming Syrian refugees may antagonise Lebanese church members whose lives have been negatively affected in one way or another by the Syrian occupation of Lebanon from 1976 to 2005. Yet, doing nothing for the multitude of highly vulnerable and new “neighbours” reflected a huge disconnect between what we say and teach, and what we practice. In the end, those churches that decided to do something about it took steps of faith that brought them out of their comfort zone and onto a journey of transformation that continues to give glory to God – a learning journey that impacts the lives of both the care-givers and the care-recipients!  One partner noted that “God used our work with Syrian refugees to teach us about Him, and the first lesson was forgiveness.”  Another shared that, Our church has become ‘home’ to all people – Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis. We’ve become one family. There is no longer room for condemnation in our church. Only rest, support, and hope!”  

Exactly so! As people of Hope, we, the Church, i.e. you and I, are called to be agents of Hope! We are called upon by Jesus to stand up for issues of justice, i.e. to be a voice! His voice! One of our partners noted that since their Church started “being the Church in the community, people became interested in learning more about the Jesus we follow.”

In dwelling more on whether I am being a voice or an echo, I am reminded of my own personal responsibility as voiced by Jesus in Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Faith and actions Thimar-Lsesd Salt & Light SKILD DMAH BBS

Sometimes we think the problem or challenge is way beyond what we can do – but what we choose to do, or not to do, says something about our values. This is particularly important when messages of hatred are coming out of people who profess to be followers of Christ. The damage then is by far greater than anything else!   

Change – as our partner churches in Lebanon experienced – starts within us first!  

Help Thimar support the witness of the church in the Arab world

Our vision is to see communities transformed and churches flourishing both in Lebanon and the MENA region for the glory of God.

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