When you think of Australia, what comes to mind? A vast, tough, rugged land of drought and flooding plains, where mateship, fair play, looking after the underdog, equality and egalitarianism still permeate the nations soul. Where people look after one another, share the burden of the land, while not taking it too seriously, finding humour in the most despairing of moments. Considering that most Australians are coastal urbanites, or regional city dwellers, the notion of a bush outback culture seems more an ideal than a reality. It would seem the more we migrate to the cities, the more we become consumed with an isolating individualism. We re segregating our lives between work, play, rest, family, hobbies, sport, all stove piped and isolated from each other. We don’t make things work, we consume, discard and get something new until it breaks down, and we do it all over again. We seem to want to be like Americans, eat fast food, consume mountains of sugar, and get fixated on reality television. Even our politicians and national leaders seem to be more interested in emulating the populations greed for self-gain than serving the nation.
So, what does it mean to be an Australian Christian in 2019? There was once a time when most people could answer that with honesty and pride. But it’s getting tougher each day to hold onto faith in an increasingly secular and hostile country. Many Christians are being forced to express their faint underground, or to just walk away, rather than face the hostility directed toward them. In a land of free speech, where we all have a right to say and believe what we wish, it seems being a Christian is getting tougher and tougher. Yet many of the values of mateship, egalitarianism, equality, fairness, and watching over each other are fundamentally rooted in the Christian faith. The notion of looking after your neighbour, loving and serving others before yourself, considering all equal before God, have solid biblical roots. Jesus himself demonstrated so many times these exact qualities, even laying down his life for the sake of another.
Paul’s word to Timothy is to pray for all people, rulers and leaders, that we may have a peaceful quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. He doesn’t say we should go out into the streets and protest whatever it is we think is wrong. He doesn’t say we should write letter upon letter to our politicians urging them to act as we would like them to act. His first task is to place these people before God in prayer. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes us and does that which God desires of it in the life of others. The first response any Christian should make to living in any country anywhere in the world, regardless of the circumstance in which they are living, is to pray for their leaders and rulers. Why? Because this is what God desires, it is pleasing to him, and through it a path to salvation is created. This is consistent with Jesus who asks us to pray for those who oppress and bully us. To turn the check and allow grace to be our motive not anger and payback.
We live in a country that seems to have lost its way. Maybe its because it has lost the values it ascribes to, replacing it with the individualism of the secular age. Maybe it has lost the Christian ethos that once permeated it. We can pine after that which was lost, or we can do something to change it. The Christian church should be a place where mateship is found in its purest form. It should be a place where all people are equals. It should be a place where we are more concerned about others than ourselves. But we will never be that place unless we first come before God in prayer. Prayer is the powerhouse of the church. It is the thing that changes everything. It is in the humility of laying all before God, knowing that his grace and forgiveness washes it away and creates a new space where hope and love can thrive. It is in prayer that we grow to become more like Jesus, and in becoming more like Jesus we allow our fellow Australians to not reminiscence over past values, but to experience them in the now.
We have a lot to give thanks for by living in Australia. Amid the droughts, the floods, the vast open plains and rugged coastline, the urban and rural communities, we are fortunate to live in such a country. But we are here, not for ourselves, but so that through us this country may reconnect with the norms and values relegated to the mythology of the nation. The gift we give, first and foremost, is the gift of prayer. When we come across an issue that is foreign to our faith, let’s pray about it. When we see the violence, mayhem, and carnage, rather than sitting in despair, let’s get on our knees and pray to God. When we become frustrated with a system that seems to be unfair, discriminatory, and oppressive, lets put it to God. Let us be a people of prayer, so that we can e a church where Jesus is found, and the hopes of a nation are rediscovered.