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Holy Week Devotional: Apr 2 (Good Friday)

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Today’s Texts: Psalm 22; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

Room Enough For All Generations (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

Ministry is messy because people are messed up. Everyone who has served in any church or ministry knows that. And we know it well in the Asian American churches where we have wrestled with our identity and purpose, especially with regard to the next generations. Whether it is found in generational or cultural tensions, or paradigm shifts of church ministry in a postmodern era, we must not scapegoat one generation for another. Neither should we blame the increasingly hostile post-Christan society for our deep unease about ourselves. As much as we tend to point our fingers at another to shift the blame, during this Good Friday season, God is basically saying the buck stops at the cross.

As we reflect on this famous servant song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we should be gripped by the miracle and scandal of God’s acceptance of and love for unacceptable people through the finished work of the cross. There is indeed nothing in us, if we are truly honest to ourselves, that should make Him love us. We are loved by Him simply because of who He is. We are not loveable; yet we are loved by God. Get the difference? So if I didn’t earn His love; if I didn’t pay for it or deserve it, then get this – we must build our lives, ministries and churches on the bedrock of this unfathomable love of God. It is this simple, changeless message of the Good News that seems to be drowned in the noise of our struggles to discover and develop our identity and purpose. Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the cross again on this Good Friday. We are freed by God’s unconditional love, and we are therefore now free to accept and love one another.

The finished work of the Servant at the cross is both redemptive and reconciling. As much as He redeemed us through the cross, He reconciled us to one another. The generational and cultural diversity in our Asian American churches should indeed mirror the unifying grace of God at the cross, where all barriers are broken down (Eph. 2:11-22). We belong to God, and therefore we belong to one another. While generational and cultural differences will not go away, we must think through these differences through the accomplished work of the cross. No generation is less valuable to God. No generation is beyond the reach of God’s love. There is indeed room enough at the cross for all. The question remains if there is room enough for different generations in our churches. If we allow Christ to be the defining reality of our identity instead of our cultural preferences, and if we all take up the Servant’s burden, there will be room enough for all.

Another implication for leaders in Asian American churches is the obvious example of a servant-leader. Asian American churches are blessed with the innate DNA of servanthood, given the collectivistic emphasis of group goals and community before self. If we allow this innate servant quality to emerge and be patterned after Christ’s example of genuine servanthood, the challenges we face will be better met through leaders who will lead well by serving others through empowerment and enablement. As servant leaders, our paramount goal is the best interest of those they lead, and our concern is for spiritual significance rather than earthly success and recognition. It is obvious from the apparent short-term failure of the Servant’s ministry that Jesus is the Servant leader par excellence, who willingly submit to do the Father’s will by going to the cross for our sins. Just as the Servant is determined to obey God at all cost and leave the outcome of His service to the Father, so must we. Such is the call for a generation of leaders in Asian American churches today. There are no easy paths to take to address out ministry challenges. Instead many have been wounded and scarred by the messiness of our ministry contexts. Others have been discouraged to try serving and leading in Asian American churches. We need to be prepared to leave the outcome of our servanthood in Asian American churches in God’s hands. It is a call for perserverance for the long haul – a call for faithful servants who willingly and sacrificially obey and do the Father’s will. There would be room enough for all in our churches if we have room in our hearts to be shaped by the Servant’s way.

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Peter LimPeter Lim was born and raised in Singapore. He has served in churches in Singapore and the USA, as well as ministered cross-culturally in many countries in Asia since 1989. With the completion of his D. Min. dissertation, “Family Ties that Build, Family Ties that Bind,” Peter hopes to apply his work to help strengthen Asian American churches through the work of ISAAC, where he is Director of ISAAC Pacific Northwest Region and Project Director of the Greater LA Chinese Church Research Project. He is married to Karen, who will be teaching in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Alliant International University (Irvine).

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