Friday, December 10, 2010

Living in an Unfair World

TITLE: How To Live In an Unfair World
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 10 Dec 2010

Children has an amazing capacity to compare. Each Christmas festive season, gifts exchanges are common. Kids are told to buy and gift-wrap something below $10. Since Christmas is a time of giving and receiving, what better way to do that by surprising one another with surprise presents. Typically, it goes like this. At random, gifts will be distributed to all the children present. Each child begins with extreme optimism with a zeal to tear open the wrapper quickly and completely. This is where the similarity ends. Once the gifts are unwrapped, there will be a mixture of delight and disappointment. Some dislike their gifts. Others smile at their windfall. Some complain. Some whined about having something they already have. A fair start leads to different experiences of not so fair ends. Life can be so 'unfair' to a kid.

1) An Unfair World
This is an unfair world. The sooner we learn it, the better prepared we are for adulthood. Look around us. Why do some people who slog so long and hard in the freezing weather outside, make less money than the guy sitting in a comfy chair in the office? Two persons who do the same job gets paid at different rates? I suppose one of our struggles about fairness and unfairness in this world lies in a pervasive philosophy of normal life:
  • "It's every man for himself. What you put in will determine what you get out of it."
  • "If you don't work hard, you won't get what you want."
  • "You have to earn your keeps."
  • "Life is so unfair."
2) Life of Struggle?
Life is a struggle. Angus Reid calls the 80s as an era of 'spend and share' where people live in a curious society mixed with greed and generosity. A keen observer of Canadian society, he reads a movement away from the spend-and-share toward a Millenial era that is 'swim-or-sink.' In other words, people struggle even more in the post-Millenium generation. Those who has to work hard, has to work harder. Those with bills will have MORE bills to pay. Those who has only 1 job may even need more than 1 job to make ends meet.

The problem. By letting our daily struggles become an end in itself, we fail to understand ourselves. We lose our sense of determining what we really want. In other words, we are lost in a cycle of busyness and struggle.

Let's not kid ourselves. This world is unfair. If we assume that the world is going to be fair to us, we'll be disappointed. We will be unfairly treated. We will be misunderstood. We will be rejected. It is not a matter of whether these will or will not happen to us. It is a question of WHEN.

If such is the case, why not simply learn to live what we can manage. A tortoise cannot presume to run like a cheetah. An elephant cannot try to swim faster than a dolphin. We need to know who we are. We need to know what we are made to be. John Ortberg offers this tip, that we are not simply believers saved by grace. We need to learn to LIVE by grace.

In an unfair world, gracious living will go much further than grumbling. Life need not be a struggle. Life can be of purpose.

3) The Story of Granny Brand
John Ortberg in his new book, "The Me I Want to Be," relates the story of an amazing missionary to India, Evelyn Brand, the mother of Dr Paul Brand. In 1909, as a young woman, she felt the call to go to India. Together with her husband, they toiled faithfully in a local tribe for 7 years without even a single convert. Things subsequently turn around for the better. For the next 13 years, they had good reception from the locals and more began to follow Christ. When Evelyn turned 50, her husband died. Against all advice from home, she insisted to staying on in India to continue her ministry. At 70 years of age, Evelyn was told that funding from the home office will be stopped. The mission office asked her to return. She persisted on her own. With her limited resources, she bought a pony to take her long distance from place to place, to tell people about Jesus. At 75, she fell down and broke her hip. She remained fixated on the cause of Christ.

At 93 years old, she can no longer ride on horseback. It was because people in the village loved her so much, they carried her where she wanted to go. Lying on a stretcher, she continues the ministry of sharing the gospel to the poorest people in the land. She died at the age of 95. Ortberg gives this tribute:

"If Granny Brand had a logo, it would not point toward success, smarts, pleasure, or power. It would be the stretcher on which she was carried up and down the mountains to pour out the end of her life in sacrificial love." (John Ortberg, The Me I Want To Be, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010, p254)

Wow. What a life of purpose. Granny Brand would have retired from active service when the funds stopped. Yet, her purpose is not retired. She struggles a lot of years without positive results. Yet, her purpose is not easily thwarted.  She struggles as a widow for many years, but her faith and determination remains steadfast. The physical knocks and falls she receives can easily discourage her ministry. Yet, she remains focused on the work set out for her. This is because she has found her purpose in Christ.

4) Purposing Christ in a Land of Struggle
If Granny Brand were to presume life as a passage of struggle just to make ends meet, she would have given up her ministry at an earlier stage. She would have have complained about no results in 7 years. She would have surrendered after her husband died. She would have given up when the funds were stopped. She would have quit when she broke her hip. She would have thrown in the towel when her health fails. In other words, she could have given up totally and screams out: "This world is so unfair to me."

No. Granny Brand will have none of these complaining and grumbling.

Is your life a life of struggling just to make ends meet? Are you discouraged because this world is unfair to you? Do you lose your zest for life simply because things do not work out for you?

Take heart. If the world is unfair, remember Granny Brand. Remember the faithful saints of old. Remember that Jesus has received the cruelest and most unfair treatment the world has ever meted. Replace you life of struggle with a life of purpose. This is the antidote that a struggling world desperately needs.


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