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This devotional is part of a series in January that tells stories of “Bold Faith” written by CBF field personnel and members of a team composed of clergy and laity from across the Fellowship who are leading of process of prayerful discovery that will result in a faithful response. Find out more about this process called Toward Bold Faithfulness.
By Greg Smith
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29, NRSV
Prominent 20th-century Baptist statesman E. Y. Mullins once said: “A Christian is [someone] who has Christ in his [or her] heart, but Christ has the world in his heart and so to be a Christian is to have the world in one’s heart. No[one] is an all-around Baptist until his [or her] heart is twenty-five thousand miles around.”
Bold faith means having a heart 25,000-miles–around. That is to say, bold faith is nothing less than having the whole world in one’s heart.
The United Nations High Counsel on Refugees, or UNHCR, reports just under 71 million displaced people in the world today. This includes 41 million internally displaced people, 26 million refugees and almost four million asylees. These numbers are staggering. Each year, the numbers increase as countries engage in new wars (and prolong old wars), police look the other way as gangs terrorize and brutalize neighborhoods, and life crumbles before people’s eyes.
Sonya*, a Central American refugee, sought to legalize her status with the help of LUCHA Ministries’ immigration legal services, which I oversee. For the first appointment, we asked her to bring documents related to her immigration status. As we leafed through her papers, we came upon photos we hadn’t asked to see and didn’t want to see. They were photos of Sonya viciously violated and beaten which were taken in her home country—photos of swollen eyelids and split lips, deep-purple bruises and nasty scars; of pain lasting long after the physical wounds would heal. Soon I heard sobs. “I’m so sorry,” came my woefully feeble words. “That’s okay,” she replied. “They just make me relive it all.”
Bold faith means wrapping one’s heart all the way around the world in a global bear hug and not letting go. But lest we think that merely requires a polite hello, a friendly smile, a warm embrace or even a helping hand for these precious people—as important as these surely are—Jesus plumbs the depths of bold faith to its core. For wrapping one’s heart around the world means wrapping one’s very life around its pain, suffering and brokenness.
“Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” cried the Baptizer. Here he comes, John said, the one who takes away the sin that causes so much pain and death: the sin of racism, tribalism, violence, greed, nationalism and lies; the sin of cruelty and conflict that propels people abandoned and despairing toward God–knows–where; the sin of rejection and exclusion that creates roadblocks to places of safety and refuge. Jesus has come to take that away. And he has! Thanks be to God!
But the Spirit ever-beckons God’s people to bold faith, to a faith that wraps one’s heart around a world of abandonment, fear and death. This is a world refugees, asylees and immigrants know all too well. Bold faith requires that we who profess a love of God and neighbor know it too, in the way we practice our faith in service to God and God’s most vulnerable.
Some of the best practitioners of bold faith that I know are CBF global missions field personnel with whom I work in the United States. They are servant disciples who establish Welcome Houses for immigrants and refugees; who engage in interfaith ministry and gospel witness; who dedicate themselves to literacy work with refugee children; who make disciples and grow Christ’s church; who combat human trafficking, and reach different language populations to bear witness to Jesus Christ; who cultivate beloved community; and who seek transformational development for long-term community viability.
These field personnel, along with the CBF churches and individuals who partner with them by lending strong shoulders and ready hands, gifts of time, talent and money, and words of encouragement and support – not to mention hours spent in prayer on their behalf—all speak to the heart of what bold faith means.
To be an all-around Baptist—really, to be an all-around Christ–follower in general—means having the whole world, along with its pains and sorrows, joys and celebrations, victories and defeats, in one’s heart. Thanks be to God!
Greg Smith serves alongside his wife, Sue, as CBF field personnel in Fredericksburg, Va. Learn more about and support their ministry at www.cbf.net/smith. Take a step in bold faith with the Fellowship and take CBF’s online survey today at www.cbf.net/survey.