An identity and hope in Christ
By Yvonne Hileman
Dispatches to God’s Household author Nancy Benson-Nicol gave a lively presentation during morning plenary on Friday, July 20, complete with Scooby Doo’s expression of surprise: “Haauungghh?!”
This described her reaction on opening a fortune to find an inexplicable “fortune” inside telling her that a kiss is a renunciation of the heart when one is no longer alone. What!? Where do we find wisdom in a sea of inexplicable modern messages?
Nancy says she will seek other wisdom, the wisdom of the scriptures. And she guides us to some of that wisdom through the current Horizons Bible study, Dispatches to God’s Household: The General Epistles.
She offered the well-known “To be truly humbled means not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” She noted that over half of the Roman Empire was in poverty, so “many members of the early church had reasons aplenty to think less of themselves.” Between living in poverty and risking censure, imprisonment and persecution for following Christ rather than the multitude of gods and goddesses, Roman Christians had a difficult path.
Nancy suggested that through the Epistles, we learn that rooting one’s identity in Christ is a badge of honor that supercedes these worldly struggles. She said there is new birth in the Living Hope, and that the New Testament writings taught people of ancient times, as well as us, of that new life in hope. Those who are oppressed—who suffer in poverty— have a heavenly inheritance, undefiled and ready.
But we are not only to be filled with faith. “Prepare yourselves for action,” Nancy said we are told. “Do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance,” she quoted (1 Peter 1:14). Believers look ahead, and they are told in 1 John: “You shall be holy for I am holy.” There is something special about being a child of God, Nancy said, but how do we live into this high calling to love one another. What if we don’t like our neighbor?
Nancy advised, “Fake it ’til you make it!” She said we can “act as if” and it will become so. “I am not advocating denial. We all know that lack of self-awareness leads to further dysfunction down the road.” We will have our feelings, but we can choose to treat others with the loving kindness, patience, courtesy and sense of justice that we are called to as children of God.
She recounted a story originally from Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies that was included in Dispatches to God’s Household: the story of Ken, a disciplined church goer who is so weak from AIDS he is unable to stand. Ranola, a fellow church member doesn’t understand or accept him, so wants nothing to do with him. Then during one worship service, hymns move Ranola to finally see Ken as another child of God. Their encounter in church shows the transformative power of God, as Ranola’s heart melts with compassion. “Glory to God, whose power can do infinitely more than we can fathom,” Nancy concluded.