Moderator’s column: beyond the circle to neighbour and stranger

Bono is the lead singer of U2, one of the biggest rock and roll bands in the world. In an interview he describes how he and his wife visited an orphanage in Ethiopia. For a month he and his wife  Ali held babies, helped nurse them back to health, and then donated money to equip the orphanage.

When he returned to Ireland he noticed that the tone of his prayers began to change. They  became more defiant and he found himself accusing God of not caring about the children in Africa. Slowly his accusations began to fade as he sensed God speaking back to him a rebuke, “Bono I  do care… get moving, you do something.”

A little like Moses who protested when God called him, Bono called back to God “I am a rock star, not a social worker!” Eventually, Bono came to see that, rock star or not, God was calling him  to do something about poverty and injustice. This began a remarkable journey that led him to universities, parliaments, Presidential interviews and on a massive campaign to elevate the plight  of the poor.

God nudged Bono to move beyond his small circle and do something for the sake of the Kingdom. The same God who called Moses and Bono calls us. God is not very interested in our excuses;  Moses was a fugitive farmer on the run from a murder charge with a speech impediment. God still persisted and invited Moses to step beyond his circle and speak and act for God and God’s  mission of justice and compassion.

Too easily we tend to expect God to do something for us, when God wants to do it through us. Philip Yancey believes that Christian people have three core roles in the world. He argues we are  called to be ‘pilgrims’, progressing with other travellers on the road of our journey with Christ; we are ‘artists’, using our creativity to the glory of God (as TS Eliot put it “the Lord who created us  must wish us to create”); and we are ‘activists’ – agents of change and hope in the world.

Often, I see ordinary Christian people do extraordinary things for their church, community and their Lord. They move beyond the circle to neighbour and stranger. We cannot remain insides  our circles if the vision of the Kingdom is embraced. The love of Christ is forever moving us beyond ourselves to others in acts of kindness, generosity, humble service and courageous action –  whether that be in a school, office, church hall, youth group, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, craft group, writing out a cheque, visiting a hospital oraged care facility, or on the steps of  parliament.

Peter urges us that “each one should use whatever gift he or she has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms”(1 Peter 4:10).

May God nudge all of us to  move beyond our circle.

Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA

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