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International Community

By Pastor Victor Atallah

In the name of the one true living God, the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit

What do the words “International Community” really mean?  The expression has been widely used by world leaders and others claiming to speak for all nations or even on behalf of all humanity. Often such claims seem ridiculous or untrue. Sometimes they are falsely used to justify actions against others, even to the point of waging wars. True “International Community” is the bringing of people together in peace and harmony. This is what Christ came to the world to accomplish. Indeed, Jesus brings people together – regardless of ethnic, religious or ideological backgrounds.

To understand something of true “International Community,” let us briefly consider Christ’s teaching in the gospel of Matthew chapter 5, verses 1-12:

1“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

These statements are called the “Beatitudes.” They are Jesus’ introduction to his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” It was addressed to his disciples, possibly in the hearing of a very large crowd. They were all part of Israel. The people were used to hearing religious teachings in their Jewish synagogues. Jesus often taught in those synagogues. Yet, there was no synagogue large enough for such a huge gathering.

Even though Jesus didn’t belong to the class of the teachers of the law, crowds eagerly came to hear his teaching. They called him “Rabbi,” which simply means teacher of God’s Word. His teaching, however, was unlike the teaching of other Jewish rabbis. Jesus’ teaching was totally unique. In Mark 1:22, we read the crowds’ evaluation --“And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.”

Yes, Jesus did not say the usual words of religious teachers. He spoke with authority about more profound things. The beatitude gospel words tell of blessings enjoyed by a particular kind of people. Jesus spoke, not of the rich or famous. He didn’t speak of people who enjoyed power or prestige. He spoke of those described as poor, grieving, meek, caring, humble, peaceful, or abused people. Jesus announces blessing to people who seem unusual in that they would be gathered together as one people from all races and all walks of life. So, they are not limited to one nation or one region of the world. They are “international.”

Jesus did not speak of the blessing of religion or of religious people. He did not even speak of what the blessed people do, but rather of what they are like. They do not follow a religion but belong to one kingdom, called the “Kingdom of Heaven.” In fact, Christ indicates that the kingdom is actually theirs. It belongs to them, as much as they belong to it.

When rulers and political leaders say “international community,” it is often a pretext for their own agenda, regardless of the consequences on others. Jesus speaks of a totally different “International Community.”  What is it like?– a kingdom belonging to people from all over the globe– a nation owned by people speaking every different language and coming from all races and classes. Among them there are no class distinctions or hierarchical prestige. They are different only in looks, racial and national identities; yet they enjoy the same objective and privileges.

What does Jesus say about them? He says that they are poor in spirit. This is the exact of opposite of religious or spiritual status or prestige. They do not feel better or holier than others. They do not seek after social status or popularity, like celebrities. They do not seek after material wealth and do not try to manipulate people by religious terms or claims of certain gifts or abilities. In fact, like Christ, their teacher, they are often despised and rejected and sorrowful about people, burdened and downtrodden, by their sinful nature, confused and helpless like lost sheep. Christ’s true followers are meek and serve others, just as their teacher taught and lived. Jesus lived an earthly life of service.

They do not seek power or status, but rather hunger for righteousness; that is, they find fulfillment in doing and promoting what is right and just. They are merciful and forgiving to one another and to others who wrong them. The desire of their hearts is to be genuinely Christ-like, simple and straightforward, not pretentious, scheming or conniving. Their lives reflect true knowledge of God. As peacemakers, they seek to bring people together in harmony, unlike opportunist religious and other leaders who divide in order to conquer and control. Followers of Jesus, the heavenly teacher, are given strength to face persecution and mocking as they stand for doing what is right.

So, this is the community that Jesus came to establish. It is a community unified by belonging to Him. They are transformed by his grace to resemble Him. They are also unified by belonging to one another in Christ’s self-giving and redeeming love.

Political, economic or military power can never unify our world. It remains disunited by national, ethnic and class prejudices with self-seeking and greed. Sadly, the idea that the end justifies the means dominates. There is so much deception, trickery and competition to control people and resources. All is about self-centeredness and selfish gain.

Christ came to establish a new and different humanity. It is a people with a philosophy of sacrificial service-- an international community of service and self-giving.  What Christ taught, he also lived. What he came to establish required his total self-sacrifice. In doing so, he built a universal community – a holy nation of servanthood. What he taught and lived and died for established a heavenly kingdom on earth, the kingdom of God. This kingdom belongs to those who are truly built on who he is and what he has done for them. This is the true message of the gospel. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. His is the one and only true “International Community.”

It is the heavenly kingdom of joy and peace among all families of the earth. They are the ones for whose blessing Abram the Hebrew was called (Gen 12:1-3). That blessing required his name change Abram, which meant father of a single nation, to Abraham, father of many nations (Gen 17:1-7). The promised blessing to all families of the earth became a reality in the SEED (offspring) of Abraham (Gen 22:18; Gal 3:15-29). They are made the “new creation,” “the Israel of God” who enjoy the Lord’s “peace and mercy” (Gal 6:15-16). The nations/gentiles were strangers and separate from the physical Israel. Now they are told: “...you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1Peter 1:9-10).

This “International Community” is established and gathered, not by human wisdom or power but by God’s Spirit, under the authority and instruction of the Savior/King, the Lord Jesus – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Hallelujah!

The grace of the Savior King, the Messiah of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and the full blessing of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit abide with God’s people in all nations, at all times, throughout the whole earth by the message of the gospel. Amen

Learn more about the work of MERF and its ministries through a variety of articles. These deal both with current work and the history of missions in the Middle East.

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