Thursday, June 14, 2007

At Least Ask The Boss

"Emigration continues to be a hot topic among Christians in Malaysia and Singapore. Many will cite reasons as to why things have gotten worse in their country and that it is time to think about going to a better place (Australia? America? Canada?) so that they can continue to enjoy a certain quality of life, and to ensure a certain quality of life for their children.

Since I minister mostly to English-speaking faith communities, many of the people I come into contact with are educated middle/upper-middle class folks. I cannot help but be struck by the ironies. The folks who talk most about emigration are those who have the know how and the resources to live a good life where they are. Those who are really hurting in the system, the poor and marginalised, do not talk about emigration because they do not have the capacity to do so.

The folks who talk most about emigration are also people who have been blessed greatly by the Lord. The bible says that to whom much is given much is expected. It would seem to be biblical to expect that folks who have been blessed so much would live life with a deep sense of gratitude, looking out for how they now can be a blessing to others. Instead many seem to be more concerned with protecting their blessings and defending their standard of living.

Many genuinely seek to emigrate for the sake of their children. They actually have a more comfortable lifestyle where they are (maids!) but undergo much discomfort for the sake of their children. I have four boys of my own and I want the best for them. I want them to have the freedom to develop into their full potential and to be physically and emotionally secure.But I also need to leave them a spiritual legacy.

By my choices I am teaching my children values, and what we do speaks more loudly than what we say. Is it for their good that I teach them that, when the going gets tough, and if you are rich enough, go to a more comfortable place? Is this the spirit of the Christ that calls us to carry our crosses if we want to follow Him (Luke :23-24)? At the very least we need to be clear as to what "good" means before we make decisions for our children's good.

As I have written elsewhere, I do not take a legalistic view on the matter of emigration. I know that God has different plans for each of us and I cannot use my own pilgrimage as a yardstick for the journeys for others. But when I hear people listing down their pros and cons as they decide whether to stay or to go, I just want to ask them one question: "Have you asked the Boss? What does He think? Have you inquired of the Lord? Does the Lord want you to stay or to go?"

A basic tenet of the Christian faith is that we are not our own. We were bought with a price (1Corinthians 6:19-20). And we now belong to Jesus. Paul reminds us that we are soldiers. We do not do what we want. We obey the orders given to us by our Commander (2Timothy 2:1-4)."

-- Soo Inn, Read On


alwyn said...

thanks for this follow-up to Hwa Yung's post some time back.

there is this perspective that if God wanted us to emigrate, we would. but if He doesn't, then we wouldn't. (I've heard this both among the 'doctrinally enthusiastic' and non-enthusiastic, the determinists and non-determinists, and of couse it applies to a lot more than emigration.

in fact, i would be wrong, but I suspect the Puritans left their British-Isle homes for the New World at least partially convinced that it was God guiding them. Obviously, they also gave thanks to God when they arrived.

i think the bottom line here - which, yes, MAY be a separate issue - is how do you 'know' The Boss' instructions? Say, He doesn't want you to go - how would we recognise that? Or he does - what would make it obvious?

Because the issue applies to a lot more than emigration. There's also transfers to better jobs, buying a new car, getting a new book shelf( smile), etc.

it'd be great to hear some of your thoughts.

Dave said...

The Agora has done two public forums on this very topic, which may be a helpful primer for deeper reflections on this "decision making" and "God's will" issue:

alwyn said...

i think the two links highlight the indispensable need for a posture of worship and reverence in our seeking God's will.

i just wonder if there's some way to push the envelope of empirical recognition of God's will. it's kinda like the 'truth' vs 'relationship' principle in doctrine (grin).

of course you know there are ppl who emphasize personal r'ship over propositional truth. the common rejoinder is that propositions are necessary lest we have no content for our beliefs.

likewise, this entire 'God and vocation/emigration' series emphasizes the relational/devotional aspect, which is great. but without a take on 'how' we know that God is affirmatively speaking to us, it may be just end up being a case of conviction with no direction (because how do you know where God is pointing us to?).

perhaps we could also explore the recogition/signalling/manifestation/marker aspect?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the over-emphasis on 'how to', self-help techniques a throwover from modernist, Enlightenment paradigms? ;)

Dave said...

Ya, I think the ecommentary gets to a root of our craving for quick and easy (sure-fire empirical, how-to, technique-driven) method to technically google God's personalised will for our lives. How conveniently consumeristic! :)

Indeed the notion of 'truth' vs 'relationship' is a false dichotomy, as Carson rightly pointed out b4 (no strawman here)

"Hearing god's voice" sometimes seem like a mysterious privilege of only an elite group of super Christians...

But perhaps here is something tat demystifies this a bit and make it more accessible to mere mortals like us...

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Buechner

If our whole lives are part of God's providence, then it wud appear that God is already at work in shaping us according to plan

1. What are my gifts and abilities?

2. What is the deepest desires in my heart?

3. Where do I personally sense the needs of the world and feel the brokenness in God's creation?

4. What is my unique temperament or personality?

We may add what does the community (trusted frens and family) says abt our gifts?

God has planted the burdens in us differently in accordance to what He's calling us to do. There's the objective and subjective side of the equation.

Hope that helps, though it's not purely empirical or a how to manual hehe...

alwyn said...

Hi Anon/Dave,

yes, the OVER-emphasis on 'how-to' is bad, just like the OVER-emphasis on anything is bad.

i like your bullet-points about unique temperaments, what the communities says, etc. i really think such aspects can be developed further, and look fwd to more stuff like this.

dave said...

As always, the door to more stuffs in similar Agora get-togethers (with dim sum and siew pao?) is always open :D

alwyn said...

thanks, :)

Rachel Loo said...

The Lord says : John 14:1-4

Depak Sutra said...

Read John 3:16