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By Commissioner Andre Cox I Territorial Commissioner of The Salvation Army Southern Africa
Thomas watched Jesus being crucified, and, as far as he was concerned, saw him die and be buried. His friends tried to convince him otherwise but to no avail. Often, our response to Thomas is hard. But Thomas was, in fact, a modern day realist. This modern day realist was negative. And in our world today, there are many things that make us, as modern day realists, negative.
The economic and social climate in Southern Africa and the world floods us with despair, and we cry out, “What is the use?”, “Why believe?” and “Why fight social injustice?”
We live in a world in which thousands of men, women, boys and girls are trafficked daily – stripped of their dignity and traded as sex slaves. As far back as 2003, the international labour organisation published statistics of 246 million children being used as slaves, trafficked, in bonded labour, or press-ganged into prostitution.
These statistics are so daunting that it is all too easy to throw up our hands in surrender to the evils of exploitation and poverty.
But Christians celebrate Easter in the knowledge that Jesus is alive. He is risen. We are called like the disciples on the road to Emmaus to have burning hearts and minds that have positive answers to the questions posed above, rather than despair.
We in The Salvation Army, and the Christian church as a whole, believe it is our mission to save souls, grow saints and save suffering humanity, no matter how difficult the journey.
To do so we will sometimes have to take risks with our reputation and, if need be, with our fiscal resources. We cannot do this alone and our contribution may be modest, but together with others in our society we can optimise the huge swell of goodwill that is to be found amongst people who will not stand for the social injustices around us.
We do this in the strength of prayer which keeps us centred and grounded. This Easter time, we in The Salvation Army call once again on all people, the body of Christ, to stand firm and be rooted in the unchanging everlasting promises of God and his word. We need to discover and reaffirm our role in society and play our rightful part in overcoming the massive challenges that face us.
As the Christian writer, W Placher, writes in Narratives of a vulnerable God, we need to “stand, from the start, with the crucified Jesus and the vulnerable God he makes known to us”.
Jesus called the modern day realist, the apostle Thomas, to make a choice and believe his words. This act changed his life and he stopped doubting. His life was never the same again and this once negative man, full of doubt and hopelessness, went on to die for Christ in India.
Similarly for us, whether we are realists or not, Christ brings hope. William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, pledged to “fight to the very end” to achieve the movement’s missionary objectives. The Salvation Army strives to move forward positively in the cause of social justice. We recognise and celebrate the tremendous contribution to social justice made by the promotion of human rights by the Christian church.
Our call this Easter is to remember that Christ is risen indeed, and to stand with him.
On behalf of The Salvation Army I wish you a blessed Easter.