International Ministries

The Word of God Transforms the World

January 16, 2011 Journal
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“Shalom, shalom!” The greetings filled the packed room.

Over 150 Christian adults and young people gathered in Vanga over the New Year's holidays for a 3-day retreat organized by the Ligue Pour la Lecture de la Bible (Scripture Union).  The theme of the retreat was “The Word of God Transforms.” The Bible study passage was the story of Cleopas and the other disciple (Luke 24). For three years they heard Jesus and watched him act, full of expectations of the coming Messiah.  And now they were on the road to Emmaus, discouraged, going back to their old life.  Jesus hadn't liberated them from the Romans and hadn't established the ideal Davidic kingdom.  Events of the past three days pointed to failure.  In the desire to see Jesus' message in terms of their own expectations, they had missed the hope and power of Good News.  So complete was their disappointment that they didn’t even recognize Jesus as he walked and talked with them.  They weren’t transformed . . . until they heard God's word again and finally recognized Jesus alive in action: in his way of blessing the food.  

The central questions the retreat wrestled with were: "Why are so few of us really transformed?  And why active Christians have so little impact on our communities, our environment and our life situations?"  

One conclusion participants came to is that we often assume that our decision to follow Christ and exposure to God’s Word will automatically transform us.  But what we observe is that hearing God's word must be accompanied by obedience, the will to be shaped by the will of God.  Transformation is not the automatic result of being inducted into the Christian fellowship.
A second conclusion we came to was that God's will is not always obvious to us.  For example, most cultures including historical biblical cultures once accepted slavery, and traditional Bandundu culture assumes that the exploitation of God's creation is an unlimited right, even when it leads to destruction of the ecosystems on which we depend for life.  Learning the mind and heart of God in all things requires effort: prayer, meditation, and serious reflection by the community of faith. It also requires the Holy Spirit’s direction.  Transformation happens as a result of inspired meditation and obedient action.  

The retreat challenged participants to take stock of the changes their lives make in the villages where they live.  Do Leaguers in general contribute to the transformation of the world? Or are they simply happy with League activities, with a pietism that satisfies the soul and intellect?  Do they share good news with their neighbors?  Do they make village life healthier, safer, more satisfying, more productive?  Do they care for the land and the other creatures that depend on it?  

These are excellent questions for all of us to think about . . . and act on.