Top Stories

Sign Up for our newsletter now.

Faith

Celebrating Selah: 4 years of realigning a generation

by | 15 February 2018, 1:08 PM

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a Relevant in Singapore?” was a question I found myself asking back in the early 2010s, sometime after I’d graduated and was wondering how to creatively contribute to the Kingdom.

It was a rhetorical question. In our own quiet spaces, we appreciated the faith-based, culturally savvy content that had made its way from the USA to our digital shores, even though there was always something slightly misaligned for the local reader. 

We didn’t always get references to US politics or their cultural landscape, and neither were their Christian young adult issues always resonant with us. A Singapore Relevant was the dream.

But it was a stalemate, of course.

We had never seen anything close to a “Singapore Relevant” on our social media radars, much less local editions of DesiringGod or The Gospel CoalitionAnd from the looks of it, we probably never would. Producing digital content at that quality and quantity was going to take a full-time job, my friends and I concurred, every time the topic was raised.

At that point, most of my peers were waist-deep into our first jobs, barely able to even enjoy a stress-free week night. If we were still serving in church, that included our weekends. And where would the money to do any of this come from? The dream would remain what it was – a dream.

Until one day in 2015, as I was scrolling through Facebook one Sunday afternoon and a post from selah.sg caught my eye. It tackled a familiar Singaporean topic, so it had to be local, but it was all polished and hipster, and the writing was on point for a young adult reader.

I don’t remember which article it was, but I will never forget how it made me feel.

Thank God someone’s finally done it.

SELAH SEES FIRST LIGHT

In 2013, a 23-year-old Joseph encountered God in the Scandinavian woods. He was on exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark, at this time, when God addressed the growing discontent he’d long felt in his heart over Singaporean Christians having only western literature to read online.

He tells me this in the most millennial way – over Skype, in a midnight conference call with two of his SELAH teammates, Lemuel and Natalie.

There’s more than 10 of them in the group, church friends who’d been super tight since their teens. From what I gather, they were the teenage version of the Acts church: Studying together, hanging out regularly, staying over at each other’s houses, even holidaying together. They prayed together. Worshipped together.

The friendship that made SELAH.

“But we all felt a dissatisfaction that there had to be more to life than just hanging out,” Joseph admitted. “We knew there could’ve been a reason why God put such a diverse group of individuals together.”

So when Marvin, one of the members from the group, dropped by Denmark for a visit and told Joseph that the rest wanted to work on a project together, it immediately clicked with the dream he’d received. So when he returned to Singapore, he pitched the idea of starting a hyper-local, faith-based website to the group.

“I remember hearing Joseph asking with raw passion: ‘Aren’t you all pining to read content that is relevant to the Singaporean culture?’” Natalie said, and the three of them laugh as she re-enacts his speech.

“Personally I couldn’t see it happening – God spoke to Jo, not me – but as I saw how everyone was getting on board with it, I started think that God could do something with this, and we would be missing out if we just let it fly by.

“It sparked something in me to believe in the vision, that if we put our hearts to it, worked hard and obeyed God, the dream could be realised. And I could commit to what it was going to be.”

One of the first concept drawings for the SELAH site.

Lemuel was one of the first few to cast a positive vote. “I’d already started a blog to write about my lessons from the Christian walk, but it was getting really hard to sustain alone. So when Joseph mooted the idea for SELAH, I thought it was perfect.”

Not every member of the group was gifted in writing, but together they were a creative dream team: Photographers, videographers, singers, communication executives … And by August 8, 2013, SELAH held their first official meeting to bring the dream to life.

DREAMING FOR A GENERATION

“We just wanted Singaporean faith stories to be told and published,” Joseph replied when I asked him about the big vision for SELAH in the beginning. “And over the years, people have told us that what we do has ‘discipled the nation’, even though we’re really not the most competent in the media publication space.”

Their mission is threefold: To glorify God in the edification of the Singaporean body of Christ, to inspire readers to pause and realign – their tagline, and also selah‘s Hebraic meaning – and to ignite Christ-inspired living.

“Christ-inspired living is a cornerstone of all SELAH does,” Lemuel added, “We referred to it often in the early months, when we were still wondering what we were doing.

“And now that we all have full-time jobs somewhere else, we also try to pause and realign ourselves first, because balancing SELAH with our other commitments can be really challenging.”

Late night SELAH meetings in the early days.

The response to SELAH since they went live in February 2015 has, however, proved the long fight worthy.

“We wanted to throw in the towel at least three times before the launch,” Joseph shared. “It was a coordination nightmare.”

Natalie interjected, “We couldn’t even agree over whether we were good enough to call ourselves a ‘magazine’!”

But the initial rate of uptake surprised and humbled the team, and keeps them doing what they do. “Comments like, ‘Wah, that was a good article, I was really blessed’ help keep us going,” Lemuel said. “Writing is an incredibly personal experience and some articles draw from places so deep within my soul, making it very difficult.”

Natalie, also one of the main writers, agrees. “Needing to bear your heart on the Internet is a struggle. I ask God, ‘Why do You have to take me through such pain in order to produce this article? What or who is it for?’

“But as God has laid it on our hearts to steward these stories well, our hearts are constantly renewed to do so.”

FOUR YEARS AND COUNTING

On February 15, 2018, SELAH celebrates their 4th anniversary. It’s also the start of a year that will see most of the team get married – including Natalie and Lemuel, respectively. Nobody can say how things will unfold from here for SELAH, Joseph said. But who knew they’d even be where they are today four years ago?

“I look back fondly on the moments of bouncing ideas off each other in the early days,” Lemuel shared with a smile. “Back then, every article posted, every interview done, every image taken was a milestone. We celebrated every little thing.”

A huge milestone for the team: SELAH’s first worship night at CHIJMES.

“We all knew Ronald would be the very first one to fall asleep during our meetings,” Natalie added in jest. “We’re more ‘business-like’ today.”

“Business-like” has even meant creating a separate work-chat for the group of friends, as not everyone was ultimately part of the current SELAH team.

And though things may continue changing as the team grows up, the work is far from over for SELAH.

“The digital space is where transformation happens in this day and age, and we have a mandate to put something out there that is relevant to a Singaporean,” said Lemuel, his tone now serious. “I love Singapore and I want the church in Singapore to be strong.”

With SELAH, we’ve always wanted to break that perception of Christian perfection; we’re all struggling, and we all need grace.

Joseph agreed. “With SELAH, we’ve always wanted to break that perception of Christian perfection. The narrative we’ve tried to write is that we’re all struggling, and we all need grace. We all need saving and help and God.”

It’s the same heart that Natalie has for their contributing writers. “I wish we could disciple our contributors more,” she shared later, in another conversation. “That I would be discerning and sensitive to what the Lord is saying to the one who’s writing the story.

“I believe God wants transformed lives over great stories.”

And over 180 of those great stories later, I can still say: Thank God someone’s finally done it.


This story was originally featured on SELAH, in collaboration for their 4th anniversary.

SELAH is an online magazine that seeks to tell Singaporean stories of Christ-inspired living. Find out more at: www.selah.sg.

/ joanne@thir.st

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

My love affair with pornography

by Mark Yeow

Studies

What’s the point of education?

by Jonathan Pang with Ai Luan and Chong Tee

Culture

On death and dying: A post-mortem of life’s great equaliser

by Adrienna Tan, Burning Hearts

Faith

How to really read your Bible

by Jonathan Pang, Tan Ai Luan and Goh Chong Tee | 21 September 2018, 2:03 PM

One of the challenges that new believers first encounter in reading the Bible is reading it in totality.

We tend to have the most trouble with the Old Testament (OT), where cultural and sociopolitical contexts differ greatly from the New Testament (NT) – let alone our postmodern society.

Nowadays, intellectual disparities form the primary barrier to spiritual insight. Yet as believers we are told to take God at His Word in Luke 21:33, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away”. We are told the same in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as well: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

What then is the correct mindset and methodology for studying Scripture within BC times, in a way which is comprehensive yet authentic in relation to its historical and ecclesiastical roots? Here are 3 handles you may find beneficial to your reading.

3 WAYS TO READ THE WORD WELL 

1. Read between the lines

“Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.  Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5-7)

Reading between the lines is especially essential for seemingly awkward or outdated customs among God’s chosen race. Some examples include piercing servants’ ears as a sign of lifelong dedication to their masters (Deuteronomy 15:17) and the forbidden practice of seething (boiling) a young goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19).

It’s about pressing in for the meaning behind the verse. And admittedly, since we may not be theologians, it’s also useful to lean on doctrinally sound sources of secondary literature which give insight and clarity into the practices of the early Jews.

Analysing things like genre and writing style helps us read through the OT with clarity.

There are also multiple references within other OT sections involving history and prophecies which may mystify readers unless they look for key phrases or words within the original Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic translations.

These translations themselves borrow metaphors from nature or mythology to explain or corroborate principles, often making for awkward translations today. After all, reading the Bible in English, we are distanced from the original writers and their target audiences by language, time and context.

It helps to look up the nature of a biblical book before reading it. Analysing things like genre and writing style helps us read through the OT with clarity. It’s our responsibility to truly understand what we read (Romans 10:2-4).

2. Connect the dots

“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

God’s Word doesn’t contradict itself or His character manifested on Earth through the life of Jesus Christ. Similarly, the NT does not make the OT irrelevant to Christians today.

The moral and ethical codes first commanded by God through the Torah have been perfected through the death and resurrection of His Son. Such was the theological foundation of the early Church in the days of the apostles. In relating OT laws, prophecies and history to the observances and character of early Christians, their significance and applications to our own spiritual walk can be made clearer.

The Word is timeless and transcends even history.

Consider especially the Book of Revelation. It possesses close parallels to the books of Daniel and Ezekiel in the imagery of the visions they received about God’s judgment of the Earth, calamities befalling man owing to sin, the Resurrection and New Jerusalem.

The central themes and messages conveyed through similarities in both OT and NT texts are consistent with each other, and should therefore be identified and analysed to determine its purpose and message for Christians – dispelling misconceptions or preconceived ideas of irrelevance between the two.

The Word is timeless and transcends history.

3. Watch and pray

“Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

All Scripture, however translated across tribes and tongues, is God-breathed. Our human capacity is insufficient to access and live by it.

Intellectual humility – sadly lacking in a generation that has had greater access to education than previous ones – is something Christians must possess to internalise and act upon the Word of God. The Bible is more than a religious text that Christians blindly follow, it is the critical foundation for the heart and mind to be filled with the Spirit – producing love for the Lord with all we are.

We can and should ask for wisdom in the process of nourishing ourselves with the Word.

While any doubts that we have concerning our study of the Word should be brought to our clergy or peers within the Church community, they should first and foremost be addressed through prayer.

Sin has marred the vision of many and blinded them to the Truth. What better way then, than to request for wisdom from whom Scripture is breathed? For we have the Holy Spirit to guide and counsel us.

The tearing of the temple veil upon Christ’s crucifixion was a sign which indicated the beginning of this new and living way to God. Jesus’ sacrifice allowed for the remission of our sins, so we could renew our relationship and have communion with Him as children of God.

So our understanding of the Bible is highly intertwined with our spiritual walk with the Creator. We can and should ask for wisdom in the process of nourishing ourselves with the Word.

As you continue to study the Bible, you will undoubtedly face difficulties in both the intellectual and spiritual aspect of doing so. It is both a science (in terms of critical reading) and an art (putting it into practice).

But remember: your Christian walk should never be undertaken alone. You will undoubtedly need the support of your spiritual community in translating your faith into tangible action. Regardless of the obstacles encountered, always persevere in plunging deeper into the knowledge and love of God through understanding His Word.

Ask for wisdom, and it shall be given. Seek Him, and draw near to Him by faith, and let Him strengthen you and your walk with Him.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Speak up: You don’t have to be charismatic or extraordinary

by Ada Chua

Relationships

Help, I think my professor likes me

by Carmen Lee

Faith

At the end of myself

by Lizzy Lee

Faith

Tongues-tied: The gift I never knew how to ask for

by | 19 September 2018, 3:50 PM

Have you ever heard someone speak in tongues? What are tongues anyway?

Before we get any further along in my story with tongues, I’m going to run through a quick crash course so we’re all on the same page as best as we can be.

It’s in the Bible. Acts 2 is the first time tongues were spoken, on the day of the Pentecost, when the apostles “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

Now most people, I feel, have the conception in mind that tongues are some entirely unintelligible thing — they might even think it’s a secret language. But the gift of tongues can also be the Spirit-given ability to speak a human language the speaker doesn’t know, to spread the gospel to someone else in his own language as in the example in Acts (Acts 2:11).

Finally, tongues should be translated for the edification of the whole church (1 Corinthians 14:27), must be orderly in worship (1 Corinthians 14:27-28), peace-bringing (1 Corinthians 14:33) and glorifying to God.

Full disclosure: I grew up in a Pentecostal church. But that meant I had weekly court-side seats to good examples of tongues being spoken and tongues being interpreted.

In weekly worship as a child, upon the end of the last song, a person with the gift would usually begin speaking in tongues to the congregation. He or she would be proclaiming unintelligible words for about thirty seconds. Then my Pastor would stand up to interpret whatever it was that person said — and I would be in awe because I didn’t understood a word until the translation.

How did she understand what the person was saying? How did she remember all that was said? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

But I was deeply impacted by tongues — I wanted it. Most of my family could speak in tongues. But for some reason it just never came to me or one of my sisters. Frankly speaking, I wanted the gift solely for the childish reason that it would be cool to have.

By the time I was in my preteens, I had already been trying to “receive” it for a few years — almost as if it was a problem of not praying or trusting God enough. I had gone up for altar calls, I had been anointed multiple times, had hands laid on me by many a visiting preacher … But it just wasn’t happening.

Looking back, I realise I was stumbled as a child, while no one explained to me what was going on. Tongues just became, to me, a Christian thing that (for some inexplicable reason) wasn’t part of my experience of faith.

So as I wasn’t getting what I wanted and tried for, I settled for an uneasy acceptance of God’s sovereignty in this area.

Fast forward to my young adult years: I’m somewhere between earnest desire and wistful jesting on the whole “tongues thing”.

I admit that’s just my tendency – when something makes me feel bad, my personal coping mechanism is to find a way to laugh about it.

But the one thing that constantly bothered me were fellow believers who would start speaking in tongues disruptively, at times that would be distracting. I still struggle to find peace with this.

The truth is, I still believe that tongues are a beautiful gift. But as humans do with most things, some of us might be guilty of making it our own thing.

Far be it from me to overlook all the other gifts He’s given me just to covet one.

It broke my heart when I learnt that a friend left her church because she just couldn’t speak in tongues after years of trying. I’ve been there and it sucks. No believer should have to feel like a second-class Christian just for their inability to speak in tongues, or made to wonder if there’s something wrong with them.

What I am realising is that we cannot miss the point about tongues or any other spiritual gift for that matter. It’s not about you. It’s for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) of believers and to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12). It must be orderly (1 Corinthians 14:40) and it must glorify God.

I still don’t speak in tongues. But now I’m neither proud nor ashamed of that. It’s just the way it is, and that’s okay.

I’ve repented of occasionally making fun of the gift of tongues. It’s just as uncool as making fun of prophecies or healing, and I don’t want to be that guy.

Ultimately, the sovereign God apportions spiritual gifts to each believer as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). So no longer will I sit in the seat of mockers, and far be it from me to overlook all the other gifts He’s given me just to covet one.

Whatever our gifts may be, we must display unity in the Body of Christ. May our gifts build us up as a church, glorifying God to the utmost as we lift Him up to the nations.


Have an insight into the gift of tongues? We’d love to hear them – just drop us an email with your thoughts.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

On death and dying: A post-mortem of life’s great equaliser

by Adrienna Tan, Burning Hearts

Culture

Are you serving for affirmation?

by Nicholas Quek

Faith

The prayer that saved my life

by Elicia Lee

Culture

Are you serving for affirmation?

by Nicholas Quek | 18 September 2018, 3:49 PM

I suspect that many of you reading this article are serving in churches, or are at least in some position of responsibility or authority.

You might be a ministry head, cell leader, mentor. Or you might be the guy who stacks chairs after service. Whatever role we play, most of us participate in this church structure not merely as members, but as people who lead, serve and hold positions – whose roles play an important part in the weekly running of a church service.

Thing is, I believe that across many churches, it has become ingrained into the culture that one should “step up” into service and leadership as quickly as possible.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with leading and serving in church. Indeed, my very act of writing at present is a conscious act of service unto the larger church body. Paul exhorts us in 1 Corinthians 14:12 to “strive to excel in building up the church”, so we must exercise our gifts and discharge our duties in service.

I suspect that for many of us, affirmation has become the main reason why we lead and serve in church.

But here’s the potential problem: the addiction to affirmation in the course of serving and ministry.

  • “Wow, thank you so much for serving.”
  • “That was a really great point you made.”
  • “Great job today, I really enjoyed worship.”

Ever heard these before? To be clear, there’s also nothing wrong with affirmation. It’s a good thing to honour and encourage one another. But I suspect that for many of us, affirmation has become the main reason why we lead and serve in church.

Isn’t it addictive? To hear how great your Bible study session was? How amazing your voice was in worship, or how much the church appreciates your sacrifice?

And how easy it is to play by the rules! Many of us who have grown up in church are so familiar with the structures and scaffoldings of church life, that we’ve crafted for ourselves ideal ways to receive affirmation.

There are many reasons why someone might attend a church.

Curiosity, anger, romance – the people that flow in and out of a church’s doors are diverse both in appearance and purpose.

Yet I venture that this variation in purpose might well exist within the church. I say this with confidence because this same devious purpose – to receive affirmation – was what kept me in church for 12 years.

And so when I failed in my ministry tasks, or messed up during a worship set – my joy was robbed from me. My very purpose in church was taken away, and I was left with nothing but emptiness where once was the affirmation of those around me.

What robs us of our joy? Are we filled with despair when we fail at a task in church? Or when we offend those we respect? When we are not commended for what we have done?

These are important questions to ask ourselves, not just because they pertain to church participation, but because they pertain to our very salvation.

The main reason for gathering together as a church isn’t to say nice things to each other or make each other feel good – it is to glorify Christ!

Ephesians 2 clearly spells out that we gather together with Christ Jesus as the Cornerstone, in whom we all grow together into a holy temple unto the Lord.

Any affirmation must come out from sincere faith in Christ Jesus, which leads us to love and care for one another. Indeed, sincere faith in Christ Jesus might also lead us to do things that seemingly run contrary to affirmation. In Galatians 2 Paul recounts how he called Peter out on his sin – how his conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel.

That is what sincere faith in Jesus Christ looks like: while we affirm, we also correct. We do this not to destroy, but to restore each other to walking in step with the Gospel.

Does that bring us joy? Do we see correction and discipline as a necessary and good part of church life? To come to church for affirmation is to completely miss the purpose of gathering together as a church.

Ask God to reveal the true foundation of your life: is it about yourself or the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:20)

It took me 12 years to fully realise that my participation in church life didn’t come out of a sincere faith in Jesus and commitment to His body – I was simply hungry for affirmation.

I didn’t have any real faith in Jesus Christ. Instead, I harboured the desire to see myself worshipped and adored.

It is my prayer and hope that we do not deceive ourselves into thinking we are worshipping Jesus when we are really just worshipping ourselves! Far better that we know now, and know rightly, than to discover too late the corrupted foundations we had built our whole lives upon.

So what gives us joy? Let the answer be Christ, and Christ alone!

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Caught between 2 petitions, I could no longer choose indifference

by Audrey Hau

Culture

I’ve learned to be okay with not being good enough

by Lizzy Lee

Culture

On death and dying: A post-mortem of life’s great equaliser

by Adrienna Tan, Burning Hearts

Culture

My love affair with pornography

by Mark Yeow | 18 September 2018, 2:39 PM

I am intimately familiar with sin.

I was around 12 when I had my first experience of pornography, one which started a love affair that lasted more than a decade. Porn seemed to satisfy this deep and dissolute hunger within me. I craved seeing women naked, doing things that aroused me.

Yet, each time after I was spent, I felt this cloak of shame fall around my head and heart. Heavy thoughts would weigh on me: You are worthless … You are pathetic.

Even after I gave over my life to Christ, I continued to watch porn.

I would try to resist the temptation, succeed for weeks or even months, then slip back into the embrace of my favourite performers – often just after a relationship breakdown, or an unexpected malady, or some other happening that laid me low.

And porn isn’t the only lust affair I’ve had – just the longest. I lost my virginity in the last years of high school and the sex that followed – however great it was – smashed my soul into little pieces which took years to put back together.

I went after women for how their physical beauty and sensuality made me feel, and when two of them broke my heart, I broke three more in return.

… only God’s redeeming touch was able to pull me out of this pit of lust some four months ago.

The toll of my lust has been enormous.

Constant fatigue, clinginess to female friends, shouting matches with my parents – not to mention the countless hours of masturbation both physical and emotional.

I think I might’ve written a novel, or even a trilogy, with that time alone. And “time alone” is apt, because the only word I can summarise all those years with is “lonely”.

Walking in the wilderness, only God’s redeeming touch was able to pull me out of this pit of lust some four months ago.

But the battle is by no means over.

Writing about this dark part of my past, I still feel a strange mix of shame and desire. On this side of eternity, there will always be a treacherous part of my heart that seeks earthly pleasure and rebels against the word of God.

But as a child of God, it’s my duty to whack that part as hard as I can until it runs squealing back to the cell it escaped from.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Don’t lose hope: the battle against pornography and for purity can be won. We overcome solely by the Spirit, in the community of the saints.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Caught between 2 petitions, I could no longer choose indifference

by Audrey Hau

Faith

What my wound taught me about sin

by Michele Lee

Faith

What if Christianity was a lie?

by Leslie Koh

Faith

How do we see people the way God does?

by Mark Yeow | 17 September 2018, 1:43 PM

The challenge – to build a cardboard version of one of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic structures – came with the usual church camp caveats.

In this case, several members of the team had to sacrifice one of their senses, by being blindfolded or gagged with masking-tape. To succeed, however, every team member had to make some sort of contribution to the building. I think the point was something to do with obstacles and perseverance … but I’m not exactly sure.

As soon as my team blindfolded me, I felt something change. Some of it had to do with the tasks they assigned me, like being the human measuring stick for the tower’s height, or creasing large sheets of cardboard they placed in my hands. Useful, for sure, and well-meaning in their sympathy, but relatively menial. Few of the group knew, however, that I’m no stranger to visual impairment.

In fact, I am going blind.

But after several minutes of struggling over an issue of structural integrity, I found myself guiding them towards a solution that had come upon me. I couldn’t see what they were building, but I could visualise it in my head thanks to my years of experience working in my mind. I had a possible fix, but it took a lot of literal blind gesturing to convince them that my plan might work, and how to put it into practice.

I realised that when the blindfold came around my head, it not only limited my sight, but changed the way others perceived me. And it made me think, do we really see those around us, especially those “in need”, for who they really are?

DON’T BE TOO QUICK TO LABEL

As Christians, we know we’re not supposed to judge others by their outward appearance.

But let’s not forget that even the prophet Samuel – who had no lack for piety – was reminded by God that he was looking at outermost qualities instead of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Similarly, Timothy found himself on the other end of the stick as he ministered to the nascent church, and was encouraged by Paul to let his innermost virtues speak for themselves (1 Timothy 4:12).

Have we improved since then? Perhaps, perhaps not. In general, I’d like to think that we as Christians do our best to love those around us, irrespective of whether their values align with ours or not.

Yet I still hear of short-term mission teams getting excited about how they’re going to “be a blessing” to churches in poorer, less connected areas, or to the widows and orphans in our own neighbourhood – when we city-slickers are often the ones much more blessed and made aware of the paucity of our own spirits.

I know because I’ve been one of them. I’ve seen great faith and conviction in those who on the surface have so much less – yet hold in their hearts so much more.

… do we really see those around us, especially those “in need”, for who they really are?

I think part of the problem stems from our natural tendency to label people. We put people into boxes: “poor”, “handicapped”, “unbelievers”, “Christians” … but with those labels come assumptions about what people can do, why they do it, and who they are.

And while those labels may sometimes be accurate, they inevitably cause us to overlook the deeper, truer potential of those around us.

DON’T BE TOO QUICK TO ASSUME

When we seek to see what’s beneath the surface, we’re often surprised, sometimes astonished – but always encouraged.

But it’s not easy to do so. From my limited experience, I’ve found myself frequently going through three mental processes that help me to break down my preconceptions and look deeper.

First, I try to remind myself that everyone – no matter how poor, morally ugly or simply different – was created in our Lord’s image. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) without exception. And what may look small or grubby to our humanly eyes, is often beautiful in God’s all-seeing vision. Just ask the woman with the two copper coins in Mark 12.

Second, we can never know what a man can do until he’s done it. Nobody would’ve thought Paul, with his zeal for the blood of the early Christians, would end up being the one to lead the charge to share the Good News with those he had once murdered – least of all the man who helped set him on his way (Acts 9).

We all have our prejudices based on people’s pasts or presents – but, like Ananias, we can put them aside and focus on bringing out the best that God sees in them. To do otherwise could cause us to miss our calling.

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) – which should be enough to sharply correct any superiority or condescension we might feel.

Finally – and this is hard – I reflect on who I am: a sinner, morally destitute, still plagued by mistakes and faults, whose only redemptive qualities come from my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) – which should be enough to sharply correct any superiority or condescension we might feel. We each have something to give, but only because of what He’s given us.

There’s an anonymous poem which has a particular line that reads “He uses whom He chooses”. And He doesn’t choose according to physical, mental, or even spiritual dis/ability. He chooses based on the posture of our hearts.

I suspect the best way to fulfil that common prayer to “see what You see”, is to have the right posture first.

Conversations

We Recommend

Relationships

Help, I think my professor likes me

by Carmen Lee

Culture

What is being missional?

by Pastor Alvin Lim, Grace Assembly

Culture

My love affair with pornography

by Mark Yeow

Article list

Celebrating Selah: 4 years of realigning a generation

How to really read your Bible

Tongues-tied: The gift I never knew how to ask for

Are you serving for affirmation?

My love affair with pornography

How do we see people the way God does?