Friday, April 17, 2009

My Story

I was asked to give my testimony on Easter so I thought I would post it here:

My story is the story of a seeker. This process of seeking began when I was about 10 years old. I remember at 10 or so I saw a World Vision television show about the 1973 famine in Tanzania, East Africa. Prior to this documentary, I was unaware of the problem of poverty. The contrast between the affluence of my neighborhood and our nation with the reality of suffering in other parts of the world was irreconcilable. To me as a teenager I was profoundly aware of this ethical idea. What alarmed me even more than the suffering itself was that no one else seemed to care. My awareness of poverty and of the apathy of people around me was reflected in the music I listened to, the clothes I wore, and my relationships with my peers and my parents. It even affected how hard I studied.

At university I began to study the root causes of this problem of poverty and I discovered politics. I was studying to be a medical doctor. My major was Medical Anthropology and I wanted to work on the most fundamental problems of infectious diseases and clean water with an emphasis in East Africa. As I studied the historical roots of these people's suffering and the realities of global trade and economics, I came to the realization that the problem was not only human apathy but was the result of the intentional acts of the powerful. What was needed was a political solution. Needless to say, I took a serious turn to the left.

Our test case was the problem of South African Apartheid. My activism got me face to face meetings with some very powerful people. We spoke truth to power, but I was profoundly struck by these men's stubbornness. Eventually our frustration resulted in an escalation of the conflict, and my friends and I found ourselves in jail. At this time y heroes were Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Jesus. All spoke truth to power, met resistance with courage, and died well fighting for the poor. When I graduated from college my understanding of Jesus was of a political activist motivated by compassion who was killed as a result of his advocacy for justice and his compassion for the poor.

After college, for some reason I remember I attended a youth group at a church. I remember arguing with the youth pastor, who appeared rather square to me, that Jesus did NOT die for his sin. His advice was that I read the Bible and start in the Gospel of John. Never one to back down from a challenge, I went home, found a Bible and opened to the Gospel of John.

The story begins with John the Baptist's first encounter with Jesus before Jesus even started any public ministry. Seeing Jesus walking toward him, John the Baptist says "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." This verse struck me. I read it again and again and I began to weep. In one moment, I realized that though Jesus did speak truth to power, this is not why he died. Jesus dies to actually solve the problem at the root of all our suffering and our apathy and our stubbornness. Jesus died to solve the root problem of our nature. For the first tie, I saw that I was also in the grips of a moral struggle with sin and my ego and that I was losing. I was convinced in an instant that I was a sinner and was fundamentally just as spiritually needy and destitute as anyone else. I realized in that moment that I did not know God but that I needed His help. Jesus dies to reconcile me to God and to transform me from the inside out. Jesus dies to save me from my demons. In an instant, I understood that our problem is not an economic problem or even a political problem but a spiritual problem: that my problem and our problem mattered to God.

Many of the things I learned through my searching as a young man I still believe, but where each of the roads I went down ended in a dead-end, I now have hope and faith that if God is with us, He can transform both us and those we meet because of the work Jesus did on the cross, and because Jesus is still alive, we are called to serve him and work with Him to expand His kingdom, His justice and to live according to His compassion