This blog is written by Liv, on behalf of the 2018-2019 exec of Just Love Oxford, to explain the term theme for Hilary 2019. We hope it will be a blessing to you.
Those who know me will know that I’m a bit of a worrywart. Life carries its many uncertainties, to which I find myself often responding with doubt and tentativeness. The worry creeps into the everyday mundane. Out of fear that I might not meet my impending deadline, I rush into writing my essay without being sufficiently prepared, and end up in a counterproductive situation of having to rework and restart it. Afraid that I might not get a good night’s sleep, I end up worrying about sleeping so much that my fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Unfortunately, this worry also creeps into my worship, where I sometimes find myself with the stumbling worry that God will not be glorified in what I perceive to be difficult situations. When listening to the struggles of my homeless friends on the street and praying with them about those struggles, I worry about how, if these prayers appear unanswered, they might cultivate unbelief in God, or view God as apathetic or sadistic enough to leave them in their plights. When I choose to turn down a homeless friend’s request for money, or walk away from a conversation that placed me in an uncomfortable position, I worry about how they might think Christians are hypocritical in preaching about a God of love but failing to show care in our actions the way they might desire to receive it. When reading the bible with pre-believing friends, I find myself worrying if God might come across from the text, especially if it is worded harshly or requires contextual explanation, as unreasonably harsh in judgement or irrelevant to their lives. On particularly exhausting days, these culminate in the small feeble voice at the back of my head, asking God where His glory and grace might be found in all of these situations.
Thankfully, coherently from the start to the end of the bible, God does not call for His people to worry or fear. Instead, He presents us a solution to that worry: to hope in Him. This hope is not of the trivialness of making a wish as we blow out our birthday candles year by year. This hope is one that does not put us to shame, stemming from the gift of God’s love (Romans 5:5). This hope is one we can trust in, and one in which we find salvation and strength (Isaiah 12:2).
Revelation 21 gives us a picture of what exactly it is we are hoping for. It tells us, with absolute certainty, of a place where all things are new and all is made right, where God will dwell with us and draw near to us, and where God’s sovereignty, love and justice is undeniably revealed in its full glory.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Revelation 21:1-8 (ESV)
Reading and re-reading this passage throughout the past few months has helped me to see the hope I am called to have in this God of justice. In His justice, this God of mine is concerned about turning pain into joy, making wrongs right, making the old new and calling us back from separation from Him into intimacy with Him in His dwelling place. What brings such great joy to my heart is the intimate love that radiates out of this God of justice, that He will personally wipe away every tear, that He will Himself dwell with us, that He so decides to give us the certainty of His trustworthy and true words.
Because I can hope and glory in this God of justice, my worry has no place. Anchored in the knowledge that God will take away mourning and crying and pain and instead make all things new, I can pray for and interact with my homeless friends with the certainty that these wrongs will one day, even if not now, be made right. Because God Himself tenderly promises to wipe away every tear, this intimate picture of a God of love banishes my fear that God cannot overcome even the most erroneous of impressions about Him as unloving amongst my homeless friends. The declaration from God Himself that He is the alpha and the omega quenches my worries that He might appear irrelevant to my friends. With the understanding that God is a perfect and good judge, I can be unabashed about a God who has an absolute standard of right and wrong when I read the bible with my pre-believing friends, and be compelled by this truth to yearn more deeply for them to come to know Him.
This term, we invite you to behold this glorious God of justice as He makes all things new. Our prayer is that God will capture our hearts again and again with this truth. With an understanding of this hope, we pray that this hope will guide and pour out into all that we do for Him. For it is only because of this hope we have in Him that all that Just Love Oxford has been talking about the past two terms, of offering ourselves as living sacrifices and picking up our crosses to follow Him, finds its purpose and its rightful place.
Our prayer is that, as a Just Love community, our discussions at Just Lunches and Just Dinners on important issues like gender, careers, climate change and the persecuted church, will be grounded not in our frustrations about these situations or the divisive opinions between us, but in the hope that God will one day make all these injustices right. We pray that, as you join HTAG in campaigning for colleges to adopt ethical stash and join HO in befriending the homeless, you will do so with the assurance that there is a God who deeply loves the marginalised we are striving to speak out for.
We also believe that an indispensable part of beholding our God is through prayer. We pray for His grace to help our hearts behold Him, and to ask that, through the work being poured into the different causes we stand for, glimpses of the not yet we are hoping in will be brought into the now. We will be launching a prayer poster this term, where we are rallying the Just Love Oxford community to come together and pray as Jesus taught us to pray: thy kingdom come. If you would like to join us in this prayer journey, please grab a copy of the prayer poster at the term launch or any Just Love event or project you might attend, or drop us a message to let us know how we can get a poster to you.
We hope that all you do this Hilary term will be anchored in and encouraged by the hope that He is coming again.