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TM 2020 n2 discipleship uncertain times 1

Faith-led, hope-filled, and love-saturated discipleship in uncertain times

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In the face of a public health crisis, a corresponding world economic crisis and an exploding racial justice crisis, Michael Laverty asks: How do we respond to the good news of Jesus and remain faithful in times of trouble?

Read: Hebrews 10:19-25

Reflect: Share what stands out to you most about this passage. Then choose a different ‘lens’, and read it again (see Rene August’s interview for a helpful outline of reading scripture with different lenses). Does anything new or different stand out to you?

Within the Letter to the Hebrews, we find a strong refrain, a theological conviction about the centrality of salvation in Christ, directed to those whose faith and practice are growing weary and weakening (2:1; 10:32-36; 13:22). As the world faces a shared series of crises and uncertainty, the call for God’s people is to live in faith and hope expressed in radical expressions of love.

For followers in Jesus, our deepest understanding of who God is and how God acts in the world is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ life and actions show us that the character of God is one of radical love and boundless compassion. A love that is both personal and communal, giving priority to the poor, orphans, widows and aliens. Jesus’ commitment to love even when threatened with suffering and death shows us that God enters into and embraces the suffering of a suffering world. God is in solidarity with us; He shares our sense of vulnerability.

What then, does God call us to, in the face of a public health crisis, a corresponding world economic crisis and then an exploding racial justice crisis? How do we respond to the good news of Jesus and remain faithful in times of trouble?

Christians have long summarised the practice of Christian life in the three ‘theological virtues,’ those of faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). From our text, we are encouraged to draw near to God, with faith [v22], by holding onto hope [v23], and moving towards love and good deeds [v24].

First, our faith – that is, our ongoing encounter with God whom Jesus reveals. Faith orients us, transforms us over the journey and becomes our deepest identity, leading us to live lives of faithfulness.

Discuss: Where are you seeing God faithful to his promises at this time? Where the promises of God and circumstances don’t seem to add up, how does this impact your faith?

Second, Christian hope is not a theory about the future, nor a vague wishing, nor is it merely optimism; it is the practice of being led into the future. Hope is our openness to God’s presence transforming all of creation, ultimately into a new heaven and a new earth.

Discuss: Stanley Hauerwas says, “The church can never abandon the world to the hopelessness deriving from its rejection of God, but must be a people with a hope sufficiently fervid to sustain the world as well as itself.” How do we hold unswervingly to hope – not just for our own sense of stability, but as a witness to the world? What helps to sustain hope for you?

And third, love. When we love, we act so that others and ourselves might flourish, whether that “Other” be a friend, our direct family, the wider community, the poorest of the poor, or the earth given to us by God for good care and love.

Discuss: How are you cultivating connections with God, others and creation at this time?

TM 2020 n2 discipleship uncertain times 1

Our actions for the flourishing of others catch us up into God’s life. Only through God’s gift are we able to love, and the ultimate goal of our love is God revealed to all humanity and in all creation.

In John’s gospel, Jesus says, ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:9-13)

Discuss: How do you respond to this passage in John's gospel? Does your experience reflect that the love of God is encountered through how we love one another?

So, the Christian virtue of love will be central to our living through these turbulent times, if the whole community is to flourish. Each of our acts of love, big and small, will catch us up into the mercy of God and make our lives part of that story of His divine mercy and mystery.

Discuss: What examples of ‘love and good deeds’ have you been encouraged by, or participated in, during recent months or other times of crisis? How do these bear witness to the love or joy of God?

Pray together:

  • Thank God for how the Church throughout the world is finding ways to be an expression of the good news of the Gospel, especially in current challenges.
  • Pray for TEAR’s partners, for encouragement and protection as they may remain faithful in ‘not giving up’ on meeting the needs of their communities with vital expressions of God’s love and hope.
  • Thank God for TEAR’s supporters, whose generosity has enabled the sustained and fruitful funding of TEAR’s partners. Pray that TEAR will navigate the months ahead with wisdom, courage and hope.

Michael Laverty is TEAR's Strategic Partnership Coordinator.