Beyond the Bible, Beyond the Sight

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Christians consider the Bible to be the Word of God, this does not mean that everything that God has left to us is written inside a book. “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).  “Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book” (John 20:30). That is, much of what the disciples lived with Jesus is not recorded in the Bible. Imagine, then, everything that Christians have experienced in more than 2000 years; for example, how many words of encouragement Jesus’ disciples in the world minister on a single day. We were empowered to continue the works that Jesus started. At the same time, we become absolutely dependent, as a branch depends on the trunk of the tree in order to produce fruit, and this is not just about numbers, but also about personal experiences.

We are challenged to believe beyond what is already consolidated, to broaden our understanding, faith and works. The Lord warned Thomas because his faith was blocked. “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29). We are often like a gas guzzler car. For me, one crumb of Jesus should be enough to believe. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (Matthew 15: 27-28).

Nor will I worship God only for what is recorded in the Bible. There are many greatnesses of God to be discovered, reported and, for them, worship God. “Jesus did many other things.” And he continues to do it, in me, around me, in my time, in my Church. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). What Christ did is even greater than our imagination. “I want to work harder, seek more and better understand the Lord’s movements near me” (The good part, p. 243)

Our communion with Christ must be like an iceberg, most of which are not seen by men. Jesus is working on us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Joarês Mendes Freitas once wrote:

All porcelain, upon receiving the painting, is taken to the oven and subjected to temperatures above 700 degrees to fix the images. The work can be repeated several times with a new layer of paint and more heat, until the desired quality and beauty is achieved. As children of God, we are in the middle of a process by which the image of Christ is being formed in us. …” The apostle continues in II Co 3.18: “We are being transformed according to his image with ever greater glory.”

It is true that some people do not even have enough Christian life for a good testimony, but we do not live only to witness. Being more than men can see is a conducting wire that runs through the whole teaching of Christ: “Enter your room, close the door”. Like an iceberg, a small part of my christian life needs to be seen, but my real life with God is far beyond sight.

Juracy Bahia

The good part of isolation

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Not only do prisoners live in prison. We often live in prison because of wars, pandemics, persecution, mourning and, most commonly, illnesses or precautions against them. Some people deliberately choose a life of seclusion. On the farm, we were isolated because a bridge fell; here in the city, we work from home office because of a virus. Philosophers argue that the soul’s vocation is to live attached to the body.

There is a downside to isolation. However, we need to realize its value. Resting oneself is often an experience of isolation, like sleeping, resting, sabbatical. Isolation is indispensable for the unfolding of life, as silence is for music. It is not surprising, therefore, that many initiation rituals include situations of isolation.

Prison situations are part of human history, since Adam, who hid from God, and Cain, who was expelled from family life. Jacob met God when he ran away from his brother; Joseph, before becoming the governor of Egypt, was or in a cistern, or in a jail; Moses spent 40 years in the desert to see the burning bush; Elijah was found by God in a cave; David lived on the run from his brothers or from Saul, before he became the king “a man according to my heart”; and so on. Jesus Christ, as a young child, had to learn to flee and, as an adult, regularly chose seclusion to pray. It was not different from the early Christians. John, for example, lived in exile on the island of Patmos, and wrote the Apocalypse.

The apostle Paul, once converted, had his life transformed, from someone who imprisoned people to someone who spent most of his life in prison, often literally. In addition to endless illnesses, he began his missionary journey, which in itself is a vocation for some seclusion. For the first three years, he stayed in Arabia (Galatians 1:17). He was arrested in Philip, in Ephesus, in Jerusalem and, finally, in Rome, where he ended his life under house arrest.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who died in jail for the Nazis because of his preaching, testified: “In addition, I read and write as much as possible, and I am glad that I have not felt in this period of more than 5 months a just a moment of boredom. Time is always full, despite the fact that, in the background, from morning to night, there is waiting “(Resistance and Submission, Synodal, p. 57). Bonhoeffer was scandalized by the idea of ​​forgetting the lessons learned in isolation, and questioned whether this “lost memory” is the cause for the ruin of everyone, of love, marriage, friendship and loyalty (p. 106 ). For him, we only waste time “we don’t get experiences, we don’t learn, we don’t perform, we enjoy or suffer anything” (p. 15).

Isolation is precious to discover and develop our identity. Well used, it can help answer “who am I?”, and that is priceless. I can develop my character, receive training and embrace new challenges. Anyway, it is not a waste of time if I learn to live and serve better, if I leave the cave as a better person, more humble, more human and I grow in the art of knowing how to wait. Paul  grew alone. He said: “I did not receive it from anyone, nor was it taught to me” (Galatians 1:12), that is, he received it in reading, reflection and prayer.

There is life in isolation, if I am carrying out my life mission. In addition to this vocation as an eternal worshiper, everyone is in this world with a purpose, usually related to service. I may be forced to make a thousand adjustments to the route, but I must persist in carrying out what I understand to be a divine order for me. In the case of Christians, the order is explicit: cooperate so that the Gospel is announced to everyone. The disciples feel that if they are obeying, all is well.

There is life in isolation if I keep congregational worship. The Devil’s struggle to isolate people is basically an attempt to prevent the proclamation of the Gospel and the worship of God. The disciples are challenged not to allow this to happen. If you cannot worship in the comfort of a temple, you will worship where you can gather two or three. Acts 16:25 records: “Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God; the other prisoners listened to them ”. Note that they had been severely flogged and their feet were stuck in a log.

Finally, there is life in isolation when we realize the preciousness of the friendship of someone who is or acts as if he were with us in our “prison”. The Lord of history valued, like no one else, this friendship developed in isolation, and made it the subject for his final speech, when this world of isolation comes to an end: “When imprisoned or sick, you were with me. Now, come and be with me in heaven”. Therefore, there is life in isolation if the good part is guaranteed after it.

Juracy Carlos Bahia

If I love Jesus …

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In 2017 I discovered John 21. Jesus, risen, meets the disciples and, in on special way, Peter, to whom he asked three times, “Peter, do you love me?”. I realized, at this end of the Gospel of John, a pattern, the 5 Cs: Jesus calls, congregates, confronts, commissions and comforts us. I learned about the importance of coping with the negative past (guilt, mistakes, failures), to trust that the next steps can be better (and bigger) and, also, about the immeasurable God’s love.

We all affirm, like Peter, that we love Jesus. Is it true? If I love Jesus, I pay attention to what He is talking about. When he asked three times, it sounds like “are you listening to me?” Isn’t it amazing that some people change their lives entirely when listening to a single sermon, while others listen to sermons their whole lives and change nothing? As Virgínia Brasier said, we are “a generation of the half-read page”. We may be constrained, but Christ wants to know if we are focused on him and on his words. And that is also love, grace and didactic. He insists on what is important to him, to us or to our relationship with him.

If I love Jesus, I invest in a relationship beyond basic needs. Peter’s meeting with Jesus was “after the meal”, that is, after resolving the tiredness, the hunger and the feeling of failure, of a fruitless night, Jesus calls Peter for something greater. It seems easier to seek God in need. Eugene Peterson said that “the most religious places in the world, to tell you the truth, are not churches, but battlefields and mental hospitals”. Many relationships with Jesus Christ are built on the basis of desires, worse, instantaneous desires: “You follow me because you want to eat it all,” complained Jesus once. Our love is often of convenience. It is sad to see that some people turn away from Jesus as they prosper, precisely because they were blessed by him. To a trained and confirmed Peter, Jesus said “follow me”, indicating that the resurrection was not the end of discipleship, but, in some way, the beginning. In fact, as I say in the book The good part (A boa parte), if the resurrection was the end of a process of revelation from God to men, he probably would have chosen a Saturday, the last day of the week, and not a Sunday to be resurrected. A few chapters earlier, John highlights other words of Jesus: “Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will also love him and reveal myself to him” ( 14:21)

If I love Jesus, I worship him. It is certain that Jesus is leading Peter to affirm and reaffirm his love. This is worship. A Taliban leader once said in Afghanistan: “Jihad is an act of worship. Worship is something that, no matter how much you do, you can’t get tired.” Of course, we do not agree to kill people in the name of God, but we agree that there is no love without concrete expressions of worship. This story that I love Jesus, but do not worship him, does not convince anyone, least of all Jesus, who, as Peter reminded, knows everything, “you know that I love you”. And where do we worship Jesus? Everywhere, but Jesus had the Church on his mind when he talked with Peter.

If I love Jesus, I obey him, I do what he says. Not only do I sing praises voluntarily, I also do what he says, if I want to or not. Three times “love me?”, but also three times “take care of my sheep”. If I love Jesus, I will work for him, I will put the Church and the Kingdom as a priority. Notice that Jesus had three opportunities to make different recommendations to Peter and used all three to ask him to look after the Church, while Peter had vitality, strength. As Jesus said before, “Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” ( 14:21).

Juracy Bahia

Audio in English, by Elis Duarte:

If I love Jesus … (Juracy Bahia. Audio: Elis Duarte)