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Letters to My Children: The Philippines in 2016 – Following the Light in the Darkness

To my three kids,

In 10 years when you look back at our extended time in the Philippines, I want you to find a clear explanation of how we followed Jesus with Peace Church. You’ve watched us live loyal to Jesus. You know we believe deeply in hospitality, building relationships with anyone no matter their their ideology, religious convictions or political ideas.

You also know that part of our openness to understanding and trusting others, is inviting them to the join the story of Jesus’s birth, life, teachings, cross and resurrection. We’ve experience this story as the true way to full life and love the way the Creator – God intends it. It’s not a path that will lead to popularity, it calls us to service and even suffering with other like Jesus did with humanity, but it will lead to provoking some very interesting relationships…

Jesus friend told a story

One of Jesus’s friends and followers, John, told a story (John Chapter 3) about Jesus meeting a priest in the middle of the night. The priest, his name was Nicodemus, was convinced that Jesus was from God, but he didn’t understand the things Jesus was teaching and doing? Jesus seemed surprised?

Nicodemus asked Jesus to clearly tell him about his mission and purpose. This is funny, most of the religious leaders didn’t care about that, they just wanted Jesus killed for threatening their power grabbing style of religion. They were always fighting over primary influence over the temple system and the social structures around Jerusalem. Jesus lived a different way, not only within religious structures but way beyond their boundaries breaking the rules to bring full life into the lives of everyone who followed him. Nicodemus could see Jesus way reflected God. Of course, he was God walking on earth.

Jesus gave Nicodemus a few pictures to illustrate that letting of earthly power and learning how Jesus path of loving, sacrificial service (Jesus called it being “Born from above and born from the Spirit”). Nicodemus couldn’t understand Jesus’s way of life. He couldn’t see how Jesus way transforms the world without using power to control people. Jesus way to bring change was to go up on the cross, suffering with humanity, dieing for humanity, overcoming sin and death to heal humanity from slavery to sin and then invite humanity to live in love for the self sacrificial Creator and love for their neighbour. Living Jesus way is the only sustainable path to healing in this world of power grabbing. His way is the only lasting path to healing, peace and reconciliation in every part of life.

Nicodemus didn’t get it. Jesus was disappointed, “You’re a teacher of Israel and you don’t even understand how God is healing the world? If you don’t understand this “earthly thing” then you definitely can’t understand spiritual things?”

In the end, Jesus laid out the most beautiful picture of the love of God.

Jesus came into the world to save the world from everything that’s wrong. He loves the world so much! He could never leave his hurting creation the way it is. But, those people who reject God and Jesus paht chose a different path and reject God. This path creates pain for them and so many around them. (Besides the sin and brokenness in the world also creates pain in the world without our own stupid decisions.)

The other sad part is that in our history that church has been one of the groups that hurts other so much. The crusades, manipulative evangelism and promoting nationalistic militarism (state sponsored terrorism) like what black communities have been suffering in America for more than 50 years are all part of the church’s story.

We are living in a time when it’s becoming less acceptable to be a Christian…but don’t lose hope. People havent rejected Jesus, they’ve rejected the church and oppressive religious structures. I’ve done this too in parts of my journey. The church’s power structures have done some really bad things, but, I’ve never met anyone looking for a full life who rejected Jesus and his way after they’ve met him. You kids have a life of showing the world what Jesus looks like ahead of you…

This matters for the Philippines because…

At the end of Jesus and Nicodemus’s story there is a point that applies in the Philippines in 2016.

Today 80% of the evangelical church supports the President’s promotion of actions that are the opposite of what Jesus taught. His leadership promotes killing poor drug users and the use of the death penalty to create fear. We’re sad, and Peace Church is so frustrated and heart-broken with the hopelessness that the church must feel to turn their back on Jesus and support this violent empire. We wish the church would see that she is rejecting Jesus’s path of life and instead promoting the world’s path of death and destruction.

At the end Nicodemus’s story, John wrote, “The light (he often calls Jesus the light) has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. Because everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly seen that his deeds have been done in God.”

Jesus people walk in the way of light and walk into the darkness to expose it. It’s really sad when we, the people of the light, Jesus people, choose a path of darkness because we can’t even see Jesus path. Some people believe this government can create some positive change by being so violent. Maybe? Maybe some things will change. I dont’ believe we can create sustainable change when change is built on threats and killing, rather than hope, dignity and the value of life.

We’ve Experienced Jesus Hope

Don’t forget, we live with hope. I’ve had my own Nicodemus meetings in the last few months. As Metro Manila becomes more violent while loud voices justified killing the voices of hope and light stand out and come together. People have been calling me and emailing me in the middle of the night so that we can listen to Jesus together and find his way to life in the darkness.

They want to find the message of the Gospel. They are looking for how it changes the hopelessness of the Philippines in a violent time like ours?

That’s a really good question… I have a few ideas…But I’ll leave it here for now until the next time I write…

Kids, Jesus is the light. We are his people like candles in the darkness. We get a new perspective from Jesus when we ask, and seek and wait for him to show us. No matter what, his way is always the way to be fully human and bring healing and hope into the darkness of the world.

Jesus is the perfect and complete face of God in the world. Anything that goes against his way promotes darkness and death. You can see from world history the world already has too much darkness and death…

As you keep reading just remember that we’re raising you to be people of the light, just like Jesus. He is the only source of light that will burn brightly forever.

If you know anyone this letter would encourage please share it using the tools on the left side of the screen. This isn’t just for my kids. Its for the generations of the church who wrestle with these questions and others like it.

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