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Faith put to the test

 

Not only do other people not know the true us, even we don’t know the true us. Not till we are tested. How do you react in a time of crisis? By Colin Sedgwick


Crisis


Do you ever wonder how you would react in a time of crisis?

I like to think that I would play the part of the fearless hero, “rising to the situation”, as they say. It’s when we’re tested that we show what we’re really like, not just how we want to appear, or even how we ourselves like to think we are.

Well, the real, inner, me took a bit of a bruising recently…

Nina and I were walking round a lake at a local beauty spot when we happened upon a mini-drama.

A dog – one of those big, fluffy, lolloping ones – had gone into the water and couldn’t get out. The bank was only three or four feet high, but it was quite steep, and Oscar (we soon discovered his name from his owner’s anguished cries) couldn’t get a grip. Just when you held your breath and thought – yes! – he’s made it at last!… no, he sank back into the water. I don’t think he was in any danger of drowning, but he was obviously in distress.

Then his owner, an elderly lady, decided to try to get to him, and slipped on the rocks.

A perfect moment for Hero Colin!

But no, I’m afraid not… While I dithered – intending, of course, to leap in at any moment, but not quite feeling the situation was yet sufficiently urgent  – a man (who may have been even older than me), came brushing by and rescued the lady. And then a couple of young blokes (who I think quite fancied themselves in the role of hero) took their shoes off and got down into the water and lifted Oscar to safety.

As we all cheered and applauded and heaved sighs of relief, Oscar decided it was time for an epic shiver’n’shake, thus treating us all to a lovely muddy shower while we scattered, shrieking, to all points of the compass.

But never mind… Oscar was safe. His owner was restored to the perpendicular. Everyone was smiling. Crisis over.

But no thanks, I’m afraid, to your hero Colin… Oh the gap between the outer me and the real me!

I’ve just finished a big book on how the church in Germany responded to Hitler’s coming to power in the 1930s – a time of testing, if ever there was one. It didn’t make for easy reading.

Yes, there were the heroes – but not many of them (Pastor Martin Niemoller is perhaps the best-known name). The majority of Christians seem to have dithered, like me with Oscar, while things took shape. When war came many signed up for the forces, convincing themselves that they were fighting for “the Fatherland” rather than for “the Fuehrer”.

Still others, though, were completely dazzled by him; some allowed him to stir up the anti-Semitism already deeply rooted within them; some even declared that he was sent by God, virtually a messiah figure.

Yes, Christians! Many looked back years later with bitter regrets. But by then, of course, it was too late.

It’s easy to shake one’s head in disbelief. If it had been me, of course…

Forgive me for putting together two such vastly different scenarios, one relatively trivial (no disrespect to Oscar), the other immeasurably grave. But they make, in their different ways, the same point. Not only do other people not know the true us, even we don’t know the true us. Not till we are tested. And it’s no credit to us if we are never seriously tested; we are just the fortunate ones.

The writer to the Hebrews told his readers: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were with them in prison, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3). Jesus spoke of the time when “I was ill or in prison and you did not look after me” (Matthew 25:43).

Throughout the world untold millions of people are being put to the test for conscience’ sake. Many of them are Christians (I am writing in the aftermath of the bombings in Sri Lanka).

Those victims of persecution, false accusations, social ostracism and the rest, are no different from you and me; it’s just that they have been put to the test, while we haven’t (most of us anyway - I’m not forgetting that some reading this perhaps have in fact risen heroically to a crisis). Quite likely they could have kept their heads down and pretended to be something they weren’t. But, God bless them, they chose not to.

Our duty, and privilege, is to pray for them. To support them in every way we can. And then to pray too that, if we should one day be brought to the test - any test: a dog floundering in the water, or a threat to our very lives - we would not fail.

May God have mercy on us all.

 

O God, you alone know every human heart. You alone know the real, true me.
Help me, by your Holy Spirit, to be in reality the person I portray to others.
And lead me to be a true brother or sister to those who are being put to the test today.
Amen.

 



Colin Sedgwick is a Baptist minister with many years’ experience in the ministry.

He is also a freelance journalist, and has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, and various Christian publications. He blogs at sedgonline.wordpress.com

 

Image | Unsplash
 



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