By Walter Barrett, Contributor
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing (1 Kings 18:21).
For the seventeen years that I have lived in the Virgin Islands, I have heard several phrases used repeatedly that have become somewhat of the territory’s most well-known mantras.
Some spark controversy whenever and wherever they arise, while others are calming and reassuring in nature.
But there is one in particular that stands on both sides of the fence as it were. It is viewed as both villain and hero, accuser and vindicator.
“We are a territory built on God.”
It is a comment that we have all heard at one time or another not just in the church, but even in secular circles.
It suggests that the Virgin Islands have God at its core; that the foundation of all that we thrive on – from tourism to financial services – is God.
It suggests that we are a people who know God, who fear God, who throughout the years have taught generation after generation that our success has come from God. And there lies the hero.
But then comes the villain. If those who labored to bring this territory to where it is today were to rise from their resting places and see what we have become, what would be their conclusion?
Would they be satisfied with the infrastructural developments and the growth of its industries, or would they lament the decline in morals and values and the seeming disregard for the very God we profess to serve?
My purpose in writing is never to be facetious, or even a devil’s advocate.
But it concerns me when I can sit and read that church leaders once again have taken the passive approach on a topic that the church – of all people – ought to take a stand on.
Albeit that one can argue the true origin of ‘Easter’, the world on a whole has come to revere the season as one where we at least reflect upon the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is a time when the Christian community gathers to celebrate the cross, an irony that is rescued in the fact that what was a symbol of shame for the common criminal in Roman time, is now an eternal sign of hope, salvation and restoration for the believer in Christ.
But the point of concern comes when the Virgin Islands – or any nation for that matter – can become comfortable calling itself ‘Christian’, ‘Religious’ or ‘Godly’ when it continues to allow ungodly things to trump and overshadow and take precedence in many regards over the things that point us toward our true foundation.
Perhaps, for many persons, the logic behind the celebration of the Virgin Gorda Festival during the Easter season might be easily justified with a quick recap of the territory’s history.
But, if we are truly that territory built on God, then we need to understand that God has not changed.
The same God who asked us to move from playing ‘in the river, on the bank’ with religious and worldly things, is the same God who is today saying that he will not compete for our attention.
“If I am worth it to you, then serve me. If not, then serve the world.”
Granted, we are a diverse mix of cultures, religions, races and beliefs. So it behooves us at this juncture to decide whether the Virgin Islands will continue to sing the song of its forefathers, or write its own.
A headline elsewhere in the press reads, ‘Festival At Easter Not A Problem — Churches’. And perhaps rightly so, it isn’t a problem to the churches.
But the question is, could it be a problem to God?
At a time when we ought to be looking up to the one who brought us this far, the one who spared us from disasters – both natural and man-made, the one who shielded us from towering bullies that wanted to take whatever our sweat, blood and tears literally built, we look instead to fleshly things that don’t even speak to why we are here or how we arrived here.
And another question automatically follows. If it is a problem to God, but not to the churches, then, could it be that ‘the salt has lost its savor’ (Matthew 5:13)?
Could it be that the voice that God has left behind is failing to speak on the issues that it has been charged to speak on because of fear, ignorance, comfort, or other reasons that really don’t matter to God anyway?
In the Old Testament, whenever a nation called and ordained by God strayed from him, he sent a prophet with a message and a warning to that nation, to return to him.
That is the church’s role today and the church ought not be silent, or to conform, but the prophet should cry, “Be holy because God is holy.” (1 Peter 1:16).
The church ought to proclaim, “If the Lord is God, follow him. But, if Baal is God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21).
So we reflect on this time, a time where our churches pause to remember. And, if we are truly a nation built on God, then our Government, our religious leaders and our people must fly that banner high.
There must be no doubt who we are or whose we are.
Our recognition of the God we profess to serve must not only be evident when we come together to pray that the hurricane changes direction, or when we come together to pray for our own personal agendas.
God is not moved by any of these. But rather, “If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
So, we cannot be silent. And we cannot conform. And we cannot stand aside passively, because God has placed us here for more than this.
And, as a territory that has God as its foundation, we need to stand on that rock and not jump on and off of it conveniently, lest one day, we find that It has removed Itself and we are left on our own to face the raging waters that lie beneath.
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