Saturday, 14 May 2016

The power of living the gospel by Sue Irving 14th May 2016

I have just had the privilege to visit the Nicolaikirche in Leipzig. From the outside, it looks like many other inner city churches in Germany. Yet it played a pivotal role in changing the history of a nation.

Let me take you back to the 9th October 1989: At least 70,000 people are gathering in Leipzig to demonstrate for change. The people are confronted by at least 7,000 armed police and soldiers and have been warned that the protests would be squashed “with whatever means necessary.” East German politicians had previously praised China for using violence when Chinese demonstrators gathered on Beijing’s Tianamen Square. 

Yet on that Monday not a single shot is fired. What could have turned into a bloody civil war turned into a peaceful revolution. One of the secrets of this miracle? The Sermon on the Mount and persistent prayer:

Since 1982 people had been gathering weekly in Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche to air their grievances and concerns and pray for peace and change. The church had adopted an open door policy: “Offen fuer alle.” (“Open for all.”) Christians were generally in the minority. In fact, the church gatherings were often infiltrated by the East German secret police. Yet prayers and the sharing of the gospel (especially the Sermon on the Mount), were part of every meeting. 
Visitors were effectively discipled in how Jesus would handle conflict. Over and over, they heard the same messages “Keine Gewalt” (“No violence.”) and “Schwerter zu Pflugscharen” (“swords into ploughshares” – a quote from the second chapter of Isaiah).

When people left the church building to join the growing demonstrations outside, they were always encouraged to carry a candle and so show their non-violence through their actions.

The message penetrated both inside and outside the church, and in the end candles won over weapons and words of peace over power-posturing. An East German official has apparently said that the state was prepared for anything, but not for candles and prayers!

There are lessons we can draw  about being salt and light, courage, perseverance and creativity – as a writer I am also particularly challenged to watch my words.

It is easy to be carried away, especially when we feel strongly about a subject (like how to deal with terrorism, the refugee crisis and whether or not to stay part of the EU to mention just some of the subjects that lead to heated debates).

We all have a responsibility to choose our words with care, but I believe that as writers we have an extra responsibility. What we write may still be around many years from now and be an influence for either good or bad. As proverbs 18:21 says: “The tongue has the power of life and death…”

About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. Sue has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really powerful story, Sue. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of choosing our words carefully.