The most important legacy of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, our first Prime Minister is his inspiration to live beyond ourselves. It has been said that “if we don’t find something greater than ourselves to serve, we end up serving ourselves.” But the more important challenge for me as a Christian is “what is the something that is beyond myself” that I am serving?
We can give our lives for many causes that is greater than ourselves but King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes remind us of the futility of giving our lives for any cause that is lesser than God. When we do so, we fall into idolatry and deprive ourselves of the true wisdom that comes from the fear of God.
The fear of God is not to make us afraid of going to hell when we die but to draw us to the agape love of God so that we can live the life of zoe in the here and now. Without the fear of God we are condemned to live a life of fear, frustration and futility. We will live lives of quiet desperation in seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
In the face of suffering and loss without God, we will echo the cry of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes – “everything is meaningless, completely meaningless” for we are only chasing after the wind. And in Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, we read:
“A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born. Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies – so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.”
Standing in the rain with the crowd for the funeral procession of LKY on Palm Sunday, I was moved to see the tears of some in the crowd and by the cries of many chanting, “Lee Kuan Yew” as his cortege drove by. I was reminded of the cries of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” on Palm Sunday more than two thousand years ago when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as well as the tears of the grief stricken women when Jesus was being led to his crucifixion on Good Friday.
In this season of Lent, I am challenged by the following insight of Rob Bell in his book, “Jesus wants to save Christians”:
“Our destiny, our future, and our joy are in the Eucharist, using whatever blessing we’ve received, whatever resources, talents, skills, and passions God has given us, to make the world a better place. Disconnection from the suffering of the world, isolation from the cry of the oppressed, indifference to the poverty around us will always lead to despair. We were made for so much more………. The Eucharist is about people with power empowering the powerless to make a better life for themselves.”
The bad news is that when we live only for ourselves, our families, a political party, a social cause, a church or anything other than God, we are only chasing after the wind. In times of loss, pain and sorrow we will face despair and meaninglessness no matter how rich or poor we are, how wise or foolish we are. It will be “vanities of vanities, all is vanity.”
The good news is that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to give us the resurrection power so that we can live the abundant life – even in poverty, sickness and in the face of death. As the children of the God of love we are to infect the world with our joy of salvation.
In Christ, we are empowered to rejoice in all circumstances – to be glad, happy and thankful. We are not called to live lives of quiet resignation to fate but to live by the power of the Holy Spirit with joyful acceptance and anticipation. For we are called to be witnesses that the Kingdom of God is in the here and now as we live in this world of darkness, suffering and pain. Let us die to ourselves so that we may truly live for God in Christ.