Tested by the Culture :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Tested by the Culture

Karen Hall
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I Did Not Sign Up for This

“Brrrrum…….brrrum….brum…..bum….bum….bum...bum, bum, bum.” The sound of a generator firing up about 40 feet from my kitchen window heralds another relatively sleepless night, and I immediately start seething. Hold on! I did not sign up for this! I did not sign up for my neighbor running all-night gambling sessions accompanied by speakers blasting reggae and rap music videos! Obnoxiously loud teen patrons traipsing up and down my fence, telling coarse jokes, and blowing the stale sweet fumes of their home-rolled marijuana smokes into my kitchen were not in the contract! Neither was having to patch up the inevitable injuries received in fights over promiscuity and gambling disputes. I didn’t sign up for it, but it is what God has appointed for me while He works to conform me to the image of His Son as I work in the harvest field of Papua New Guinea.  Over the past five months of close proximity to the almost nightly ruckus, He has challenged me to discipline my mind to think true Biblical thoughts about myself and the community I am striving to reach.

My inner seething every time the generator starts and difficulty in being cordial to the club operators—is that really righteous anger or is it irritation at the inconvenience of poor sleep and less privacy? If I am honest with myself, am I really concerned about the manner in which God’s name and commands are going to be gleefully disparaged and disregarded throughout the night, or am I focused on preserving my rights? I need to be honest in my assessment of the motives underlying my reactions and not put my “rights” on a pedestal above God’s name, especially when I am interacting with unbelieving neighbors. As I pray and work for their spiritual enlightenment, whose demands and authority do I want them to honor? Karen’s or God’s?

An Eternal Perspective

I am learning the need to consciously frame this particular season within an eternal perspective. In doing so, I realize that despite the operators and patrons seeming to enjoy themselves with uproarious abandon, their God-predicted end according to Psalm 73 is a final slip into sudden destruction. Pondering this truth turns seething into sorrow and prods me to pray for God’s mercy on them, for their turning away from darkness and death to light and life. It is difficult to remain angry with someone whom you have called by name in prayer! I need to be broken, not angry.

God has challenged me not only to think as Christ but to react as Christ; to live among them wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. How can I live wisely among them? Know them and try to understand their PNG perspective. From the moment of his birth, a New Guinean is surrounded by the constant clamor of extended family living in tight quarters. To an expat, New Guineans seem extraordinarily immune to the daily and nightly cacophony that surrounds them. That explains why operating a nightclub as little as 10 feet away from the front door of a neighbor’s thatched house is met with a few shrugs of the shoulders but no real resistance in the community. In wisdom I need to understand that even as I struggle to get a full night’s sleep with the aid of an iPod playing a white noise track, many of my neighbors are sleeping blissfully through the racket.

More Heat Than Light

 Frankly, my initial, very strong reactions to the proposed club were viewed by the community as an unfavorable overreaction (not very wise OR dovelike). I was using scripture in a manner that produced more heat than light. The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to remember that servants of the Lord should be kind, endure evil, and correct their opponents with gentleness (see 2 Timothy 2:24-25). Ephesians tells us we should be characterized by speaking the truth in love. So how should I implement this? The love? I invited the operators (two brothers) over for tea and apologized for my heated reaction. The truth? Over tea, “Hey guys, Satan wants to use the operation of this club to destroy your families and keep you trapped on his side away from God. You know, it would be really nice if you could knock the volume down and try to be done with the loud music videos by say…2 am or so?” Because I eventually did the right thing, they listened and changed the volume and operating hours, right? No, nothing changed. They persisted, and both brothers now have broken marriages. God is telling me to be calm, stay engaged, and believe that He is able to redeem this for His glory.

Going on the Offensive in my Own Head and Heart

During the long nights and groggy mornings, God has challenged me to go on offense in my own head and heart by simply praising Him. He craves our rejoicing in His attributes and His works on our behalf. Praising God, whether or not any other human being is around to observe it, is pleasing to God, and an offensive weapon against the seemingly victorious onslaughts of Satan. During or after an all-nighter, it often becomes spiritually necessary to listen to Christ-focused songs and sing along! Through these songs about the crucifixion, resurrection, and Christ’s ultimate rule over all, God reminds me of the bleakness of my situation and the eternal joy of what He has promised those who trust in Him. It puts the “now” in proper perspective against the eternal.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:11, “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” God has not called me to defend my rights at the expense of the Gospel. Rather, he calls me to the crucifixion of self so that Christ can be revealed in me. In some measure, He will ask of us what He asked of His Son in order that we may be conformed to His Son for His glory.