|Posted on August 9, 2016 at 2:10 PM|
In Germany, evangelizing, mission work, making disciples or whatever you might call it, is a touchy subject. At best, smaller evangelical churches might practice it - the way it should be done. The two big ones - Lutheran and Catholic - have (if at all) a totally different concept. For most of the Christians here, this is at best something fundamentalists do. Ar members of religious orders when they go to Africa. We donate a little money. This is what we contribute to mission work.
Evangelizing Jews is something the big churches won't even think of - or reject straight away (where in the Bible does God exclude the Jews from the Great Commission?).
Even Muslims or members of other religions are "non-touchables" when it comes to evangelizing.
What lacks, is an understanding of what discipleship is all about to begin with. You cannot pass on what you do not love. And you cannot love what you do not know.
At the moment, God blesses us with pastors, priests and nuns from Africa, India and similar countries that used to be the object of mission and evangelizing work. They sometimes painfully remind us of what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about (though German Christians would never call themselves like that. They are Lutherans or Catholics - and not disciples of Jesus Christ).
The idea that both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission is something EVERY Christian is called to and will be held accountable for lacks completely.
Lukewarm cafeteria Christianity and moral relativism reign.
So far, so bad.
But! It does not end there.
In the worst of times, God sometimes calls the least of the least. Simple laypeople stand up for Him, even though others attack them. Simple people like Peter was one. It is easy to spread the faith when everything goes easy street. When things get rough though, it becomes a challenge. Jesus did not come to heal the healthy, but the sick.
The situation in Europe is very grave - spiritually and politically. Things can escalate and explode very fast. The current times remind me of the Weimar Republic - the political system here before Hitler got to power. Likewise today people do not seem to be able and willing to read the sign of the times.
To live in such times is both very hard and very rewarding. It has been a long time when being a true disciple was such a challenge. Then again - it was worse for the early Christians and reading their testimonies, we get an idea of what discipleship is all about.
Our hearts must burn for the love of God, neighbor and self. Burn so much we set others on fire!
"What are we so afraid of," Fr. Bill Casey from the Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky, USA, might say now. That we get angry emails? That others will not talk with us anymore?
So be it! Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world at the moment. Many are brutally murdered for their faith.
And yet - their light will continue to shine. They will not be forgotten.
Some time ago, I visited the memorial site of the former concentration camp in Dachau near Munich, Germany. The tour guide showed us the cells where the priests were at. Technically, they were even allowed to celebrate mass there. In reality, it could happen that someone took the chalice and smashed it into their face.
People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer were there (I had also been at the site where he was finally killed in Flossenbürg). He wrote a book that fascinated me: "Life together".
Or take people like Mother Theresa. She could not care less when she was talking in the USA in front of the President and other celebrities. She said what needed to be said, not would people wanted to hear. Among others, she very strongly condemned one of the most horrible crimes - abortion.
However, it has always been the most simple people that touched my heart deeply. Those that nobody knows and talks about and whose life witness had been a tremendous testimony for the hope and love within them. They evangelized in a way that puts me to shame.
Among many, I want to mention my mom. She died last year after 30 (!) years of illness. No, she was no saint. She was an ordinary woman. Except for the way she dealt with her pain. I had been with her the last months when it got really bad. The way she bravely coped with her deteriorating health while at the same time keeping a strong faith very much impressed me.
In her last days she fell into a coma after water got into her lungs. They put a tube down her air pipe so she would get oxygen and also many cables into her arms to supply her with what her body needed, to watch over the body functions, to put her on dialysis and so on. I was told that even if she woke up she would not be the same as her brain was damaged through the lack of oxygen. Anyways she would notice nothing as she was in a coma, they said.
The family gathered around her bed and we had a priest come for the anointing of the sick. We prayed over her and the priest performed the rite. I stood beside her head and my sister near me.
When the priest made the cross on her forehead with the chrisam oil, I thought my heart would stop beating and my blood would freeze. Tears were rolling down her cheek. I nudged my sister to show her.
There was no dry eye in the room.
Sometimes God shows you through the weakest of the weakest that He is still there, that He is in control and that He is - and will always be - God.
In her hardest hour, my mother most likely drew more people to God than in her whole life.
Munich. August 9th 2016
Robert Anton Gollwitzer