Jesus said, “Blessed are the gentle, the powerless, the meek, the poor, the humble for they shall inherit the earth.”
We travelled back to the Midwest of the USA a few weeks ago. Strolling through the afternoon warmth in the woods, we talked—Jesus, nature, people and earth’s land. Stepping under tangled vines, a soft breeze moved through the hardwoods, seeing something of this land’s past, its light-living people.
Maybe it’s from growing up in the majority culture in an invaded land on a lightly populated Pacific island (Australia), I have picked up a tendency to question myself, my culture, my perspective, my nation and how we made a new home without an invitation from the locals. Those that share my skin pigmentation have often been farsighted explorers and nearsighted at best when it came to peaceful settlement of new lands.
The decisions of ancestors from culturally Christian nations were intertwined with politics and religion. Decisions we often take pride in, decisions mixed with the hope of a better life, yet often the way this was achieved was and is in opposition to Jesus’ way. We often look back with admiration and thanks, yet how do the native people view our arrival, occupation and consequent subjugation of them? A native people who loved this land just as much as you and I do?
With every rustling, leafy step a longing for greater tranquility grows, within me, within our community. Call me unpatriotic yet I see that beyond the oaks, over the states and boundaries, my citizenship is of another place, an eternal country. I want to dwell, conscience free, inherit peace as we live in the once-someone-else’s.
As church we have the opportunity to dwell in this precious land. Recently at a church meeting, a Bible-believing friend told me how “we brought civilization” and “democracy” to the native people. Through his experience on a short term mission trip, he could only see “those wild” Native American “Indian” kids who did not appreciate his sacrifice or his message. A delicious USA lunch and friendly Midwestern atmosphere become indigestible with the strange and glaring lack of openness, something I normally find in abundance among believers. The young man was patriotically proud, biasedly blind.
That day, I felt the weight of the bricks of that church building piercing into the soft, gentle Native soil. And I thought I heard a sermon whispered from among the trees, or was it in the breeze? “The soft and the gentle will inherit the land.”
I have never heard a sermon address the occupation of someone else’s land. My country was occupied, invaded, taken like this country, by people with my last name. Yet, as Jesus-followers, let’s address these past hurts, seek forgiveness. Saturated with ideas of individual salvation, property ownership, and patriotism above eternalism, we could very easily miss opportunities to repent, to ask forgiveness, to dwell gently in the land.
Let’s open our hearts to Jesus the reconciler, asking for the way ahead, being ready to meet up, seek, listen and speak words of reconciliation with the indigenous people of the land where we live.
Here are some people that I have found helpful:
Richard Twiss’ life work:
Dr Rick Love’s work:
Short interview with Richard Twiss
Featured image by Michael Quinn