In India I met people who are really poor in world terms, and there's no arguing with the figures, but they treated us, freely, with lavish generosity and love. In the poorest homes I met bubbly smiling children, and parents strong in self-respect and family loyalty. Back home I meet people who have everything, but are so damn miserable, cynical, broken in their relationships, and lacking in confidence. So what's world development really about — economics, or relationships, or both? What benefit to grow material wealth in the majority world, if in the process people lose their roots, and community, and capacity to love? What point is there for anyone to have all the things we have, without the human and relational capacity to enjoy them?
They are driving a great four lane highway over 550km from the hi-tech hub of Bangalore to the hi-tech hub of Hyderabad. We drove for hours up an old road, broken and full of potholes, amidst all the paraphernalia of one of the greatest engineering enterprises on earth. Advent is a good time of year to do this! We could see the levels being raised, and whole hills being moved to make a straight highway up through the Deccan plain. Right now cities of a million people, like Kurnool, are barely dots on the map. That is going to change dramatically.
The hallmark of authentic Christianity isn't fine worship, feeling good, big buildings or sound doctrine. It's love that turns the world upside down. That's what they said of the Early Church. Our mission as disciples isn't to get bogged down in peripherals, but to build some kind of highway through every wasteland, economic or human. Somehow we have to find ways to connect material, personal and spiritual, so that people can flourish, and increasingly enjoy what Jesus came to bring, life to the full. We can change the world, like the anti slavers 200 years ago did. It’s what we’re for, and the only way we can find real happiness and a life worth living.
We didn't sing it on Sunday, but rattling for 16 hours up and down the H7 construction project, I did sometimes think of the great Advent hymn we used to sing at school — Visionary stuff in 1870, and closer now than when we first believed.
...he comes to reign with boundless sway,
and makes your wastes his great highway.
Lands of the East, awake,
soon shall your sons be free;
the sleep of ages break,
and rise to liberty.
On your far hills, long cold and gray,
has dawned the everlasting day.
Shout, while ye journey home;
songs be in every mouth;
lo, from the North we come,
from East, and West, and South.
city of God, the bond are free,
we come to live and reign in thee!