I’ve written before about embracing a myriad of voices beyond our own safe walls who may actually teach us just as much about life, about God and about how to be disciples of Jesus. And yes, here I am again doing it.
Watching the story of Malala Yousafzai unfold over the last year, and watching the Panorama special a couple of weeks ago – reminds me that those in my own little corner of Faith don’t necessarily have all the answers that our neighbours need, don’t have the monopoly on God and can’t always see disciples of Jesus even when they are emblazoned in front of us.
I can’t wait for the day when I greet Malala as my sister in heaven. That day in heaven (or the new earth or whatever everlasting life is going to look like – who knows for sure?) will be a glorious reunion of friends, but also a glorious day of introduction to family we never knew and never thought we’d know.
Because in the here and now we’re so caught up in who’s in and who’s “out”, and formulas and jumping through hoops and folks saying the right thing – we completely miss those moments when God’s kingdom is brought a little closer by a small action of someone who knows that in the end Love Wins.
Malala is just an ordinary girl really, but one who has earned herself enemies and at such a young age. Their ire is aroused simply by her existence, but she goes beyond that. She speaks out for herself, and as a reperesentative of girls throughout the region she hails from. She speaks out as a champion of Wisdom over ignorance, as a champion of Grace, as a champion of forgiveness, peace and gentleness. And she stands as an example for girls and women alike (oh and boys and men too) of how to respond graciously but without backing away from your standpoint.
She behaves, in my view, more like a disciple of Jesus than many who would profess to follow him. She proclaims freedom for the prisoner and release for the oppressed. She seems to operate in an attitude of Peace and Grace that reflects that of God. But because she may or may not have said one particular prayer inviting Jesus into her life, those who hold to the black and white would rule her out of God’s kingdom? Pfft!! She invites him into her life by her actions and shows the true state of her heart by those same actions – She is known by the fruit of her life – and from my experience of the nature and character of God, I’m certain he claims her for his own.
She is not unlike the character of Emeth, who appears at the end of CS Lewis’ “The Last Battle” (if you haven’t read this final entry in the Chronicles of Narnia, it’s a definite Must read – go! Go read it now!). A Calormen native (a Desert Nation far to the south of Narnia) who serves Tash – the evil God of Calormen – but by his nature, his devotion, his “fruits”, that service is accepted by Aslan, the Good and Great Lion who is King and creator of Narnia. Through this character and his acceptance by Aslan, Lewis expands on the idea that some of those who will be saved have come to Father God through Christ without knowing it.
In a letter from 1952, Lewis summarized and explained his position: “I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god, or to a very imperfectly conceived true God, is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know him. For He is (dimly) present in the good side of the inferior teachers they follow. In the parable of the Sheep and Goats those who are saved do not seem to know that they have served Christ.” (Lewis, C.S. The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007.)
So, let’s reach across the barriers we have invented, ones never intended by our Master and work together to bring His Kingdom that bit closer, to make disciples, to bring Justice and inhabit our lives with Grace and Mercy. And welcome those who are our real brothers and sisters. Let’s stop asking folk to get their boxes ticked and muck in where they are leading and leaving the rest of us behind.