Christmas and the Birth of Empowering Agents

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 – NIV

The joy of Christmas always appears in December, as well as the closing year that makes many people reflect on what they have done over the past year. Some are satisfied with their achievements while others are still disappointed. In the national context, we know that this year is not easy. The turbulence of the socio-political world continues and those who are discriminated are still fighting for their rights.

Many Indonesian Christians are still facing the challenges in freedom of worship. The last polemic related to the cutting of funeral cross in Yogyakarta and the draft of Islamic Boarding School & Religious Education Law (the state tries to intervene church’s internal affairs), for example. Human Rights Watch (April 2018) also noted that the 2006 government regulation on religious harmony gives “majority religion” adherents the right to block construction of “minority religion” houses of worship.

Identity politics that have been raging for several years have heated the temperature of religious life in Indonesia on almost unprecedented scale. Religion, which was politicized by individuals (who were actually not that religious), had succeeded in sharpening the differences. Ironically, this act has put aside love and humanity, the basic principle that any religion cannot deny.

Christmas should be a momentum for Christians not to dissolve in sharpening the differences but to display themselves as agents of love and peace for anyone, regardless of their beliefs. Jesus Christ was not born into this world to be a judge of human sins but to give Himself sacrifice so that humanity can obtain salvation and enjoy blessings. He gave examples of how love can overcome all kinds of evil.

The gospel writes that the most important commandments are love God and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these are (Mark 12:29-31). This is because the ultimate thing needed by all humanity is to love and be loved by others. We can see many problems arise in this world simply because this ultimate thing was not fulfilled in one’s life.

Loving and judging are two opposing principle. Someone who loves is aware that no human being has never done anything wrong. On the other hand, those who judging is actually trying to tell that he is the most righteous and has never done anything wrong –often calling himself as a representative of God. We must realize that the purpose of identity politics is nothing more than divide et impera (divide and conquer) by judging each other, an old-fashioned way but somehow still effective in Indonesia.

The gospel even asks Christians to love those who persecute them –also do good to those who might not be able to repay their kindness. We especially need to love marginalized groups who have been excluded by discriminatory structures. Our work should always be able to empower them, just as Christ did. The act of loving should not only be done seasonally at Christmas but also be part of the lifestyle. Thus, Christmas is not merely related to trees, gifts, Santa Claus, song, or self-centered events.

We certainly still remember Y.B. Mangunwijaya (1929-1999), an architect, writer, and Catholic leader who dedicated his expertise to design marginal settlements on the banks of the Code River, though he had to deal with threats. At present, we know Agus Sutikno, a street pastor who chooses to serve marginalized groups infected with HIV/AIDS in Semarang –and Lie Dharmawan, a doctor who dedicated his life to serving remote communities who need treatment through the Floating Hospital.

There still many other Indonesian Christians who reflect the love of Christ in their life, which does not only do business as usual.

It is true that Indonesian Christians are classified as minorities in quantity. But if we truly become agents of love and peace wherever we go, I am sure that the positive contribution of Christians to this nation will resonate more vigorously than unconducive climate against minority. Merry Christmas, fellas!

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Photo Source: Getty Images

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