Truth and social reform

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Therefore, even though Paul asked Timothy to teach the churches to pray for kings and authorities so that Christians might lead peaceful and quiet lives (1 Tim.2:2), he also told him in unqualified terms that ‘everyone who wants to live godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’(2 Tim. 3:12). A Christian does not seek to create trouble, but he does because he is personally and stubbornly committed to live a godly life in a crooked generation. He is committed to preach truth in a society which is built on falsehood. If one is to bear witness to truth in such a way that it will destroy the very foundations of the wickedness of the society in which he lives-he indeed needs power. And to that subject we now turn.




Just before His ascension Jesus said to His disciples, `But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses...`(Acts 1:8). Superhuman power is needed for witness if it means calling not only individuals but rulers themselves to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, to repent from their evil ways; to reform. God said to the prophet Ezekiel that he was being sent not to a people who would respond to his preaching in great numbers, but to a people who would not listen because they were' hardened and obstinate'. Therefore, God said, 'I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them' (Ezek. 3:7-9). Jesus's promise of power came in response to the disciples' question, 'Lord are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?' (Acts 1:6). Jesus said that their attitude should not be to know the time and merely wait for God to usher in His Kingdom. Rather,their job was to go into the world, filled with divine power, and boldly witness to the kingship of Jesus, bringing the world into subjection to the authority and rule of God (see Acts 1:8, Matt. 28:18-20). That is 'evangelism'. That is also the reform of a rebellious and corrupt humanity.

After the disciples were baptised by the Holy Spirit, Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, said that the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be that young men would see visions, old men would dream dreams and all God's men and women would prophesy (Acts 2:17-18).
In the Old Testament, Joel painted that grand picture of what the restoration of Israel would mean. Restoration was not merely deliverance from foreign rulers and an abundance of food, fruit and wine (Joel 2:18-22). It was also an outpouring of God's Spirit and a great outburst of inspired, healthy and positive creativity manifesting itself in a quality of life and godly culture that brings praise to God (Joel 2:26-9).
In a stagnant and enslaved society, old men do not dream dreams; they mourn for bygone glories. Young men are not inspired by visions of hope for the future; they resign themselves to live with the present static reality of despair and gloom. The creative springs of life dry up, and there is no song of praise in the hearts of slaves. People perish because there is no prophetic vision. No one speaks for justice and truth with the freedom and authority of God. Not only the masses but also the mighty bow before evil and prefer to be discreetly quiet.
Israel had been a stagnant, enslaved society till the day of Pentecost. Individuals like John the Baptist and Jesus had been murdered, but no one had the courage to speak for justice and truth. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit made the difference between death and life. An ordinary man like Peter became like a mighty prophet of old. With the thundering authority of divine courage, he confronted Israel with their cowardice and cruelty in crucifying Christ. That was powerful prophetic witness to the truth. With the coming of the breath of God the dry bones had come to life and become a mighty army (see Ezek. 37:1-14).

Power Through the Spirit of Knowledge

Jesus promised the power of the Holy Spirit to His disciples in order to make them “witnesses”. Who is a witness? One who has power or the one who knows? Confusion at this point has meant that today Christian spirituality has changed from “Knowing God” to “having power”. A witness is a person who knows. The apostles were eye-witnesses to Jesus Christ because, they said, they had known Him “the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us” (Acts 1:21-22). Apostle John authenticates the apostles’ right to be witnesses to Jesus Christ on the grounds that they knew what they were talking about:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard…” (1 John 1:1-3).
Why is reform needed? What destroys a nation or a civilization? A study of history confirms what the Scriptures affirm: “My people are destroyed from a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6) and, “a people without understanding will come to ruin” (Hosea 4:14). God complained through the prophet Isaiah that the problem with his people was that “Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3). As a result, God lamented, “my people will go into exile for lack of understanding” (Isaiah 5:13).
Apostle Paul never came to India, but he diagnosed the root of India’s problems correctly when he said that people who suppress the Truth about the Creator with an unrighteous worship of creation, demons or mythological gods degenerate and decay (Romans 1:18-32). Paul’s diagnosis was based on this knowledge of Jewish, Greek and Roman history and societies. God grieves for His children who sell themselves into slavery by choosing untruth, because His overall purpose is to bless all the nations of the earth.
The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, written by at least forty different people, over a period of sixteen hundred years, in different countries and languages. What makes it one book? One of the threads that makes the Bible one book by tying the plots of the sixty-six books into an overarching grand plot is God’s promise to Abraham that through his offspring, He plans to bless all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:3; 15:5; 18:18; 26:4; 28:4,14; Deut. 9:5; Psalm 72:17; Isa. 19:25; Matt. 28:18-19; Acts 1:8, 2:5-11, 3:25, 17:6; Galatians 3:8; Revelation 21: 24-26, 22:2). So how is God going to resolve the contradiction between His plan to bless all the nations of the earth, and the degeneration of the nations because of their attachment to falsehood. Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit prophesied that when idolatry has destroyed his nation, when the glorious dynasty of David has been reduced to a mere stump because of its patronage of idolatry, God Himself will take an initiative:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the

spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the spirit of counsel and of power, the sprit of

knowledge and of the fear of the Lord -”
Notice the promised Spirit is not a spirit of irrational hysteria, of rolling on the floor and barking like dogs. He is the Spirit of knowledge, wisdom, understanding and counsel and of a power which flows out of wisdom. It is the Spirit of knowledge that is needed because it is for a lack of knowledge that the nations perish. God promises to pour the Spirit of knowledge upon His servant, so that through him, Isaiah continues, He may fill the earth with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9).
Knowledge, as we said earlier, is imperative to make us witnesses. But knowledge alone is not enough. Suppose you witness a murder committed by a gang of criminals in Bombay who have powerful political and police connections, without an inner source of power can you stand in a witness box and testify that this gang of chief-priests, Herods and Pilates crucified an innocent man? No, you may know, but you dare not be a witness without power, especially if yours is aimed at uprooting a wicked and brutal power-structure wedded to oppression and injustice. A radical witness that goes to the root of the issues of injustices in a society is a prophetic witness.

Gift of the Spirit: Prophecy

The New Testament talks of many gifts and the manifold fruit of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. We need to look at one gift - prophecy - and one fruit - love, to see how the power of the Holy Spirit is essential for social reform. The New Testament Church considered prophecy as more important than the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, since prophecy is the reforming witness to the truth of God (Rev. 11:3, 19:10).

Today, the terms prophecy and evangelism are often kept strictly distinct. That distinction may have academic value. In real life they are not separate. For example, in 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul exhorts believers to seek the gift of prophecy, he says that if an unbeliever walked into a Christian meeting where everybody was prophesying, 'he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner...and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God...' (vv. 24-5). Thus prophesying and evangelising are not two distinct activities. An evangelistic message from God is a prophetic message.

In the New Testament sense it is usually called evangelistic rather than prophetic because the emphasis of this message is on evangel or good news of forgiveness rather than judgment as was often the case in Old Testament prophecy.

A prophet is an evangelist because he primarily brings God's promise of forgiveness and salvation instead of judgment. Therefore, when the New Testament asks us to seek the gift of prophecy, it asks us to be evangelists. We are to preach repentance to our generation. Repentance not only for immoral behaviour but also for untrue beliefs. One reason why the Church is so ineffective today is that even though we do speak against personal sin, we choose not to challenge the falsehood which our society believes in. In India we find evangelists preaching against smoking and drinking, but we rarely find someone preaching against idolatry. Yet false belief is the foundation of many a human misery, as we have seen in the previous chapter. Because our message rarely touches the miseries of the common man, it does not appear to many to be good news. The Holy Spirit gives us the power for being a reforming witness because He gives us the gift of prophecy, which includes the power to judge and protest against the evils of the kingdom of Satan.

The Power to Judge and Protest

Proclaiming Jesus as the King of Heaven does not generally result in persecution. But when we start proclaiming Him as the Ruler of the kings of the earth, we invite trouble. Because then we automatically judge the world around us by the yardstick of His justice and righteousness and demand that His will ought to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

It takes enormous power and discernment to judge the powers and principalities which are committed to corruption and cruelty. But that is what Peter, empowered by the Holy Spirit, was doing in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. He charged his audience with the sin of cruel murder: '. . .you with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross' (Acts2:23). And again, 'Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ '(v.36). The Bible records that with many other words, he (Peter) warned them, and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation' (v.40). That was prophetic evangelism.

Such prophetic evangelism judged a specific sin, which in fact was the extent of blind, naked, unashamed cruelty to which that society had degenerated. Peter also judged the fear, cowardice and the blindness of the masses which allowed corrupt rulers to kill a good, innocent man, whom the people themselves acknowledged as a prophet from God. This fearful cowardice which permitted evil to reign was one of the main causes of the injustice in their corrupt society.
Peter's exhortation to 'save yourselves from this corrupt generation' was not merely a message of repentance from private sins. It was a continuation of the theme of the kingdom of Satan versus the Kingdom of God, started by John the Baptist. Proclamation of Jesus as Christ was a proclamation of His Kingship; of the beginning of the renewal of Israel; of the start of the Kingdom of God.
The crucifixion of a righteous man was a symptom of the degeneration of a whole society. That symptom was what Peter attacked. In those public statements' made at the risk of his life, Peter was judging the evils of his day, protesting against them publicly and calling for repentance and change. His accusations were so pointed and so directly against the unjust official stand of the state (i.e., Jesus was a criminal) that his hearers had no option but to repent or to kill him. That was prophetic evangelism at its best.
This kind of witness obviously calls for great power and one major aspect of the power of the Holy Spirit is the power to judge the world.
When St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:20, 'For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power,' what did he mean? The context clearly means the power to judge, the power to 'whip' (v.21). Paul confronted the sin of adultery in the Church at Corinth. He said that the Church ought to have the power to judge the adulterer, 'When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that his sinful nature may be destroyed...'(1 Cor. 5: 4-5). The Holy Spirit, especially the gift of tongues. Paul told them that the power of the Kingdom is not manifested by words alone, but in the authority to judge and punish sin.
Christian officers in the government of India and in the secular world are often respected for their integrity and ethical standards, but the same cannot always be said about some of the leadership of churches and Christian institutions. And even Church leaders who have personal integrity do not always seem to have the power to judge the sin within the Church. But is this power to be exercised only within the Church? Paul goes on to say in the same context that the saints have to judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2). Are we going to judge the world only after Christ returns?
In the judicial sense of the word ‘judgment’ (which carries with it the authority to punish), the saints will judge the world after Jesus returns (1 Cor. 5:9-12;Rev. 2:26-7;20:4-6). But in the moral and prophetic sense of the word judgment, our task begins when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, When he [the Spirit] comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment' (John 16:8). How will the Spirit convict the world? Obviously through the Spirit-filled believers.
But if we judge the sin of the world, the world is bound to persecute us. Jesus was not killed because He showed the way to Heaven to man. He said that the world 'hates me because I testify that what it does is evil' (John 7:7). We have to witness or testify not merely about who Jesus is but also what the world is. The Bible says that we must expose the works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). We need power to do that because when we judge the world, the world retaliates by judging us. Stephen was stoned to death because he said to the Jews in Jerusalem,
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit. Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered Him” (Acts 7:51-2).
That was prophetic witness and it requires power from above. Even the mighty men of this world are usually too weak to stand as witnesses against the evils of their contemporary powers and principalities. They consider compromise to be wisdom. For example, the ministers (and intelligence officers) in a given government know the corruption among their colleagues. But they accuse each other of corruption, in generalities only, after they have fallen apart with their comrades.
God's holiness means that He hates evil. His hatred is expressed in two ways - He saves men from sin and He also judges sin. Salvation and judgment are the inseparable sides of the same coin - God's holiness and hatred of evil. The Church as Christ's body is meant to be both an agent of salvation and an agent of His justice. The loss of this balanced perspective has robbed the Church of her dynamism to transform society. Protestantism no longer protests against evil, because it sees itself merely as a channel of God's salvation and not of God's justice. What does it if mean for Jesus to be the Ruler of the kings of the earth if He does not judge them? What good is it His Spirit does not empower those whom He fills to pronounce prophetic judgment?
After His resurrection Jesus said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me' (Matt. 28:18). Paul said that the Head of the Church is already seated on the throne above all powers, principalities and rulers of this world (Eph. 1:20-3). This means that Christ's Body has to carry out His instructions and orders. The Church is His mouthpiece. And to be a prophet means to be the mouthpiece of God (Exod. 4:14-16).
This loss of perspective which separates prophecy from evangelism, preaches salvation without proclaiming repentance and justice, reduces the currents some of which are ghastly in their cruelty and injustice. Some Church leaders, for example, are enthusiastic to perform marriages for homosexuals, but too timid to oppose the annual murder of sixty million babies through abortion. Today we seek the patronage of the Pharaoh in order to preach to the enslaved people. We do not dare to witness to pharaoh himself.
But the tragedy is that when we cease to be the voice for justice, we also become ineffective as channels of salvation: When we are not breaking the yoke of oppression, we have no 'good news for the poor' either. The poor masses consider us irrelevant and our critics legitimately dismiss us as giving 'opium', and not spreading the Good News.
Martin Luther's preaching on justification by faith alone was a judgement of an Establishment that had become corrupt. That is why it required enormous power, and that is why it resulted in such great reform and many conversions. Paul's preaching of Jesus and His cross, as we saw in Chapter 2, was the judgment of Jewish and Roman exploitative Establishments. That is why he was seen as an opponent of the Jewish law, of the enslaving temple worship and traditions. No wonder Paul needed power from above for such preaching. Such witness has to be stamped with one's blood. It has to be a cross-bearing witness. The tragedy of the contemporary Church is that those Christians who rightly stress the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, are often mistaken about the purpose of God's gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. They mistake signs to be the reality itself. They seem to think that the Holy Spirit is given primarily to empower us to do the 'miracles' whereas God said:
I will put my Spirit on him [my servant]

and he will bring justice to the nations...

A bruised reed he will not break, and a

smouldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

he will not falter or be discouraged till he

establishes justice on earth ...”(Isa. 42:1-4)
It is a great folly to dismiss this as 'the Old Covenant'. The Lord Jesus Himself said:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18).
Miracles are 'signs' of the Kingdom, Justice and righteousness are its contents (see Ps. 45:6-7).

The Power for Cross-Bearing

Jesus, who commissioned His disciples to go out as His witnesses, called them to a life of cross-bearing. The disciples were willing to drink the cup, the passion and humiliation of the cross, which Jesus drank (Matt.20:22), but did not have the power to do so. Jesus said that their spirits were willing but the flesh was weak (Matt.26:41).

Jerusalem had crucified Jesus because He claimed to be her legitimate King. For one to reassert in Jerusalem, within two months of Christ's murder that Christ was indeed the King, was to woo death. How could the disciples who had earlier fled from persecution, bear witness to Jesus's Kingship without receiving strength which came from beyond themselves? For such a witness, they needed more than the power of oratory, the power of tongues, and the power to perform miracles. The disciples were able to perform miracles long before they were baptised with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, but they were too weak to face persecution (Matt.10:1; Luke10:17). What they needed was the courage to confront their corrupt and cruel society with its sin, call it to repentance and take the consequences of such a confrontation, i.e. persecution.
This was precisely the transformation which the baptism of the Holy Spirit brought about in the disciples. When the Jewish leaders who had killed Jesus and arrested the apostles came face to face with the courage of 'unschooled, ordinary men' like Peter and John, 'they were astonished' (Acts 4:13). The leaders imprisoned, threatened and flogged the apostles, warning them not to speak in the name of Jesus. But the disciples had the strength to disregard the warnings, rejoice in persecution and deliberately choose to disobey the state. That is evangelism.
This is also civil disobedience. By disobeying the state, the disciples affirmed that there was a law and a law-giver higher than the state. They affirmed that the present leadership was unjust, immoral and unworthy of obedience. By their disobedience, they proclaimed they had a new king; that they were subjects of the Government of God. Their willingness to suffer and die was a testimony to their certain knowledge and faith in the resurrection. Such a cross-bearing affirmation of the Sovereignty of God is political freedom, just as its opposite, Fascism, is “an active and violent resistance to Transcendence” (Earnest Holte).
Cross-bearing is the original version of civil disobedience. It is a Christian's submission to the higher law of God, a deliberate rejection of the immoral laws of the state and a joyful acceptance of the consequences of the stand.
Cross-bearing is not easy, and that is why before his arrest in Gethsemane Jesus asked his disciples to 'Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation' (Act. 26:41). One needs power for cross-bearing witness. That is why Paul prayed for the Colossians that they might be 'strengthened with all power . . . may have great endurance and patience . . . (Col. 1:11). Paul asked Timothy to 'be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus . . . endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ' (2 Tim.2:1-3).
Thus the power for prophetic evangelism is the power to bear courageous witness to the truth and accept persecution from those who are committed to suppress the truth with unrighteousness.
Willingly to choose suffering and self-sacrifice for the sake of righteousness is to walk the way of the cross. It is to engage in a moral and spiritual conflict with the powers and principalities. You stand for truth: they stand for oppression. They stand with the sword. You stand with the cross, the symbol of self-sacrifice. Cross-bearing means power because choosing suffering presupposes fearlessness. The Kingdom of Satan is the reign of terror (Heb. 2:14-15). Social evils in the Kingdom of Satan continue to exist because people are too afraid to resist them at personal cost. If we oppose the corruption of powers and principalities, we are threatened, harassed, persecuted or ultimately killed. That is how oppressive societies perpetuate their injustice. The way of the cross doesnotmean accepting injustices. It means refusing to accept what is unjust and taking the consequences of that stand, even if it results in death.
While glancing through the Gospels one sees that Jesus emphatically taught His followers not to fear those who could kill the body. This fearless willingness to suffer is a prerequisite to prophetic evangelism. God said to Jeremiah,
Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I made you a fortified city ... to stand against the whole land against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you” (Jer. 1:17-19).
Let goods and kindred go

This mortal life also

The body they may kill

God's truth abideth still

His kingdom is for ever.”
That was the Christ-like attitude of Martin Luther which made the Protestant reformation possible. In our day Lech Walesa, the Nobel Peace Prize winning labour leader of Poland, a Catholic, whose daring initiative led to the dismantling of the oppressive Communist empire in Eastern Europe, exhibited similar power:
Never shall we make alliance with kings,

Never shall we bow our necks to might;

It is from Christ we take our order,

Each of us Mary's knight!

We shall not kneel before the power of authority...

Hunger nor misfortune shall break us.

Nor the world's flattery shall lead us astray:

For we are all the recruits of Christ,

Each of us in His pay!”*

{Insertion from text: These are the first and last stanzas of ‘The Confederate Son’, quoted from Maria Janion’s article ‘Lech Walesa: A Worker in ‘The Other Side,’ New Delhi, Nov. 1983}

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

A fearless prophet, defying the state, preaching both judgment and repentance and facing persecution, creates the image of a rough and rugged man. But Jesus had asked Peter to take loving care of His tender lambs, to feed and protect them (John 21:15-17). The Kingdom of God was for the meek and the lowly (Matt. 5:3-5).

God in His Kingdom has:
...scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts

but has lifted up the humble.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones...
He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:51-3).
The disciples, like normal human beings, were looking for themselves in the Kingdom of God (Matt.18:1-6; 20:20-3). Their favourite topic of debate was, `Who is the greatest among us?' But the power of the Holy Spirit was not for one's self-glorification; it was for serving others, especially the powerless.
Jesus continuously taught His disciples that to be great they had to humble themselves and become servants. He tried to teach them that the kingdom of Satan was for the big, but the kingdom of God was for the little children, the nobodies. This verbal teaching was not enough. Jesus also gave them object lessons by blessing the children, by becoming a servant Himself and washing their feet. But teaching and examples were not enough. They needed power to become servants. They needed the power to see that the great dreams of the restoration of Israel had meaning only if the powerless people had a place in those dreams.
It takes great vision and power to become a servant in a selfish, exploitative society. That is what the baptism of the Holy Spirit achieved in the disciples. Their eyes were opened to see the needs around them and to respond to those human needs with tenderness and the Holy Spirit's resourcefulness. Earlier they had seen the lame man at the beautiful gate as a beggar. Now they saw him with eyes of compassion, as a human being in need of something more than money. Their love for him was the fruit of the Holy Spirit in them (Gal. 5:22). Christlike compassion and character are what the HolySpirit produces in those who seek Him. This is the primary work of the Holy Spirit in all believers. By the Spirit's power we first become witnesses, then we are able to give credible witness.
The Holy Spirit not only gave the apostles the power to have compassion for the insignificant crippled beggar, He also empowered them to heal the beggar, to meet his need.
We cannot belittle the supernatural gifts of healing, casting out demons and performing miracles. I have seen these miracles take place in answer to my own prayers, as well as those of others who have the gift of healing. But we must remember that the power of performing miracles was not a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The apostles and the seventy disciples were given that gift much before their experience of Pentecost. What the baptism of the Holy Spirit did for them was to make them servants. Earlier the “seventy” had exulted in their powerto perform miracles (Luke 10:17-20). Now they exalted Christ, as His servants. They not only healed the sick and cast out demons, they also looked after the widows, the orphans, the poor and the drought-stricken (Acts 6:1-4:32-35; 2 Cor. 8, 9 etc.).
A prophetic judgment against oppression, cruelty and exploitation in our society can have no meaning if it is not backed by our own life of service and the care of the powerless lambs. But our service also has little effectiveness if it is not seen against the background of our overall Christlike compassion for man.
We have seen in Chapter 1 that Christ's compassion was not some sentimental pity or charity. It grew out of a prophetic insight into the social evils of His day. Jesus saw the crowds as harassed and helpless sheep, whose shepherds had turned into wolves. He was moved enough to cry, outraged enough to condemn and concerned enough to identify Himself with them so fully as to lay down His life for them. That is compassionate service. Naturally it calls for supernatural power - the power to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow the Good Shepherd.
There is no dearth of Christian service today. But because much of it is service without prophetic compassion, it is powerless to bring about a radical change in individuals and society. To be a Good Samaritan has eternal value in itself, but that is not the highest ideal of Christian service. It is only the beginning. A concern for the wounded and robbed man must lead us on to a prophetic judgment of the systems that violate the rights, dignity and values of man made in God's image.

Our service will have a cutting edge when it is seen against the background of our overall concern for man. A prophetic judgment of all that dehumanises man in our society gives meaning and power to our service towards those wounded and crushed by the same society. But in order to be credible, our prophetic words must be backed by service, by a practical affirmation of the value of man. A prophet may stand outside society, but a servant gets inside and dirties his hands. For a prophet to have his message heard, he has to become a prophet-servant.

Such service which grows out of a prophetic compassion brings one power because it makes one a good shepherd. Jesus had compassion for the crowds partly because the Jewish political, economic, civic and religious leaders, who should have been shepherds to the people, had instead become wolves (Matt.9.36). The crowds sought Jesus because they were looking for a shepherd, a new leader. Jesus, therefore, sent His disciples to preach, to serve and become shepherds to those lost sheep (Matt. 10:6-8,16). Jesus' mission was to become the shepherd, to take over leadership from the wolves.
The role of a shepherd, community leader or reformer, gives social power. Jesus used that power as a deterrent against His arrest (Luke 20:19). He had been to the temple many times and was no doubt indignant at its corruption. But He did not challenge it until He had a crowd behind Him, shouting His praises. The High priests and soldiers were afraid to arrest Him for they feared the crowds would take to rioting. John the Baptist had remained a prophet, so it was relatively easy to arrest and kill him. But Jesus had gone on to become a shepherd by being a servant, and His flock was a powerful deterrent against His arrest.

It was the same with the sixteenth-century reformers. Martin Luther would have been arrested and killed as soon as the Reformation began, had his service not built up a powerful popular opinion in his favour. When Miltitz, a Saxon nobleman and chamberlain in the papal court, was sent by the Pope to secure the support of Frederick the Wise (the Duke of Saxony) against Luther, he realised as he travelled through Germany that public opinion was so strongly in favour of Luther that even if he had an army at his command, he could not take Luther to Rome. The people did not stand up for Luther (or Jesus) just because he was a saint, a great preacher or a theologian, but because they could see that Luther's stand against the Roman exploitation was in their own interest.

Service is the legitimate means of acquiring the power to lead. Service done with prophetic compassion makes one a shepherd, the de facto leader of the community.
Jesus asked Peter to take care of His sheep. The Holy Spirit empowered him for that service. Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit are for service to others. 'There are different kinds of service,' he said, 'but the same Lord ... to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good' (vv.5-7). That is why love - the fruit of the Spirit - is the greatest power we must seek (1 Cor.13).

Prayer: The Source of Power

The Holy Spirit empowers us for prophetic, compassionate evangelism in response to prayer. The power comes from prayer, because prayer puts us in touch with God.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest, Jesus asked His disciples to pray so that they might have the power to withstand opposition. They did not pray; therefore, they fled before the threat of persecution. Before His ascension, Jesus asked them again to pray; they did, and were filled with the Holy Spirit and with power to serve, to suffer and to turn the world upside-down (reform) with their prophetic preaching.
A theology of power has to begin with God, Who is all powerful. When Zerubbabel, Joshua the High priest, Ezra and Nehemiah faced the task of restoration and rebuilding, they were told by God “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” the great mountain shall be removed (Zech.4:6). Nehemiah had to build with a sword in his hand, but the Bible makes it clear that his faith rested not in the power of the sword, but in God. If there was ever a man of prayer, he was one. His power for great reforms came from prayer.
Dependence on God and the use of service, suffering, the sword or wise strategies are not mutually exclusive. It is like taking medicine and praying for healing.
Of course, some people do not even take medicines because they find it inconsistent with faith. My question to them is, “Why do you pick up a spanner or a screwdriver to repair your bicycle when it goes wrong? Don't you believe that God can fix it? Why don't you just pray?” Their reply inevitably is, “Because a bicycle is a machine.” But the body is also a machine, as is the universe. Just as a man can work on a bicycle, so can man work on the human body and in the physical universe. Because man is made in God's image, his actions have significance. We must not belittle man's God-given abilities and significance. But we must also remember that just as a machine is open to human intervention, so it is open to divine intervention. God can and does work in the universe, in a human body and in a machine like a bicycle. Four times I have seen a scooter and a car run on prayer! Because the universe is open to God's intervention, prayer has meaning and significance. Both prayer and wise strategies are necessary for world-transforming witness. Man forgets prayer only at his own peril.
One night the chief of village Karri came to our community to ask if any of us knew sorcery. A Brahmin woman, Ramkali, had been bitten by a snake. The sorcerers had been called and they were casting spells when she became unconscious. The Government doctor, who was there, gave her intravenous glucose, because he didn't have anti-venom. Her condition became more critical. Now as she was dying, her friends were running around looking for witch doctors.
I said to the chief, 'We don't know sorcery, but we can pray.' He said, 'please come and at least pray.' Three of us Christians and one Muslim seeker went to pray. We knelt around Ramkali's bed. Over fifty people, including the doctor, watched us as we prayed for this virtually dead woman. In less than ten minutes, as we opened our eyes, she did too! On the third day she walked to our home three miles away to thank us and the living God Who answers prayers.
I know that prayer is a Christian's source of power, because I have seen the power of prayer in our struggle with the Government, police, politicians, power structures of villages, 'goondas' and bandits. For months the highest police officer of Chatarpur had been threatening to kill me. For at least one year a politician of the ruling party and another of the Communist party schemed ways to murder me. But through the power of prayer, we were able to withstand all this. We have the power of prayer in bringing hardened people to repentance and moving believers to share their wealth with the needy at great personal cost.
I believe in human planning, strategy and action because man is significant. He affects not only machines but society and history as well. But I also believe in prayer because God is Almighty. He acts in the mechanical universe, as well as in the hearts of believers and unbelievers. I believe in prayer because God is the author and finisher of history; therefore, prayer for reformation, prayer for change in society has meaning. Some of the greatest reforms in Biblical history came when men like Daniel (Dan.9) and Nehemiah (Neh.1) prayed.
Prayer not only has meaning but it is the only solution when we are faced with natural, social or spiritual problems which are beyond human wisdom and strength, because prayer releases the power of God.
It is necessary that we stand in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, because the battle between good and evil ultimately is supernatural. Modern man ignores the diabolic supernatural dimensions of evil; therefore, he is unable to understand or to deal with the social dimensions of evil.
Praying is trusting God. The Bible says that faith is what ultimately overcomes the world (1 John 5:5). Faith is power because it produces hope and generates action in a stagnant society. Faith is power because it produces patience and perseverance. Faith is power because it gives staying ability in the midst of opposition - the power to stand, to serve, to fight, to suffer, to die and to overcome. Most supremely, trusting or praying releases power because our dependence on God moves Him to act.

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