Good When Gathered and Peace When Dispersed Follow the Gracious Lord against All Odds
By Rev Wayne Cheung
July 23, 2023
The emigration tide that has emerged in recent years has indeed impacted different churches’ ministry directions and modes of pastoring. But thanks be to God, churches, theological seminaries and Christian organizations are not complacent or stagnant. Rather, they boldly tackle the issue of “dispersion and gathering.” Often with creativity, being forward-looking, and offering care in emotional counseling, they help both who stay and who are dispersed to ponder deeply on the spiritual support in God’s walk with man.
The Apostle Peter was in Rome, coded as Babylon (1 Peter 5:13), when he wrote the first epistle. He was writing to the chosen people in the local churches scattered among what is now Turkey (1 Peter 1:1). It can be clearly seen from the content of the epistle that the shepherd’s heart of Peter was not high-sounding or pretentious. Rather, being observant of people’s life situations and understanding the real-life difficulties of contemporary believers, he provided spiritual nurturing to those facing “dispersion or gathering” so that they would learn from the Lord and persist in being upright and doing good even in suffering.
Facing an era of drastic changes, the Book of 1 Peter offers three points of light. First, whether gathered or dispersed, we need to be sure about our identity before God. On the one hand, we are sojourners and exiles. This world is surely not our home. It has never been ours. We are Christ followers in and not of the world. On the other hand, we are grace receivers consecrated by God for Christ has led us out of darkness and into His light. Since an inheritance is kept in heaven for us, we can, without hesitation or fear, live out an extraordinary life endowed by our faith.
Secondly, politics and economy around the world is getting increasingly uncertain, and wars and persecutions have no sign of easing. Christians will face tests like fire whether we are gathered or dispersed. The tests are coupled with a broken world, directly impacting our faith in God at this very moment in time. Amid uncertainties for the future, interpersonal alienation, pessimism and despair, we do need strength and hope from God so we can stand firm with dignity and strength to break through the predicament. Suffering for our faith is a fact we as Christians need to face. It is also the cost and honor that our Christian faith has taught us.
Finally, whether those staying or those who choose to leave have to face lessons on survival and life. Peter has a good exhortation: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply…Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others…” (1 Peter 4:7-10). It remains Christians’ mission to do good through good times or bad, through sweet or bitter circumstances. We should remember God’s calling and keep watch over one another in love. With God’s lively words of grace, we will testify that God has led us forward and has also empowered us to walk with others with compassion.
It is good when we are gathered and there is peace when we are dispersed. There is calmness from within. And as long as we follow the Lord against all odds, we will go forward even when the path is rugged.