Like any other place in the world, anger and harsh words is characteristic of most people here. To see people respond to each other with gentleness and mercy is rare. Whenever someone does something “wrong” or something that someone else is not pleased with, they are welcomed with a multitude of strong hands at the back of their heads.
This hatred is not surprising or foreign to us, because Titus 3:3 reminds us that believers too “were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
Why does Paul tell Titus in this letter to remind the church in Crete of who they once were, apart from the grace of God, and why is it important for us to remember that? Because there is something about remembering who we once were, that makes it unfitting and senseless for the believer to act in pride and arrogance towards unbelievers. To the contrary, we remember that we were ones slaves to the same manner of life, and would still be if the goodness and loving kindness of God has not come to save us.
Therefore, Paul gives instruction so as to the form our interactions with unbelievers must take. V1-2 – “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. FOR we ourselves were once…” Our interactions with unbelievers must look radically different from their interactions with one another (1 Peter 2:12, Matt 5:16) Which brings me to my story…
Amelia’s seedlings sat on her wall
Amelia’s seedlings had a great fall
Shortly after I arrived here in Maweroro, I started a garden. Some of my seeds I planted straight into the ground. Some that were really precious to me (since I cannot run to the store and buy new ones) and that I had only a few of, I decided to nurture. I gathered together my little pots, planted those scarce seeds, and put them on top of the fence on our veranda – where it gets good morning sun and where it is sheltered from the monsoon rains which fall most afternoons.
From when I have planted my seeds, until today, I have had 3 of my little pots bumped over and some of my seedlings taken out and thrown away because little kids supposed them to be weeds.
The first time one of my seeds was bumped over, it was by one of the boys who live very close to us – Matis. The reaction of all the kids was “HIT HIM. HIT HIM” “Go down and get a stick and hit him!” Poor Matis stood still, silent, and ashamed, with his head bent down as though awaiting the slap. All of them were waiting for my response. As I reached my hand out, he flinched, but I just gently rested it on his shoulder and told him that he is not to worry – it is just seeds. By their faces I could tell that that was a different response than what they expected.
Although I was sad that I lost my seeds and weren’t able to recover them, I was reminded of Col 3:1-4, instructing me not to set my mind on the things that are on the earth, but on the things that are above. The loss of seeds was truly just a small, earthly loss. What was more important, was to shine as a light to the world: Matt 5:16 – “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (1 Peter 2:12)
*As a side note – my gardening is going well! I have moved my remaining little pots into my home, and they are peacefully sitting in my window pane now. The picture above is of my gooseberries!