Sisters and brothers,
Happy Monday to all! Yesterday we again looked at the Christian manifesto, “The Sermon on the Mount.” In “The Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus calls believers to be different from others, especially in the way we love our enemies, bless those who curse us and asks God’s very best for them, and forgive those who despitefully use us. In Matthew 5:17-48, Jesus calls us to a “greater righteousness,” a righteousness the Holy Spirit seek to continually produce in the lives of believers. This morning I read an article written by my friend Billy Tinsley in his “Reflections Column.” He shared a story about this “greater righteousness” that I want to share with you.
Twenty years ago, January 23, 1999, Graham Staines, an Australian missionary to India, was burned to death along with his two sons, Philip, age 10, and Timothy, age 6. Staines was 57. For 35 years Graham had ministered to lepers in a remote tribal village in India where he established the Mayurbanj Leprosy Home in 1982. In 1983 he married his wife, Gladys, who joined him in the work. The mob that killed Graham Staines and his sons was apparently a hardline Hindu organization intent on retribution for the missionary’s effectiveness in converting members of the lower cast to faith in Jesus Christ.
After the attack, Gladys Staines forgave those who murdered her husband and sons. She remained in India with their daughter, Esther, and continued their ministry among the lepers. She stated, “I cannot just leave those people who love and trust us. I have high regard for the people of India and their tolerance.” The government of India awarded Gladys Staines the fourth highest civilian award in 2005, Padma Sri in recognition for her outstanding contribution to India. She has been called the best known Christian in India after Mother Theresa. In 2015 she was awarded the Mother Theresa Memorial Award for Social Justice.
Their story was recently made into a movie entitle The Least of These and released into theaters on February 1. It appears the movie will be shown in a limited number of theaters for a limited time. The Executive Producer for the film, Victor Abraham, said the movie “beautifully illustrates the power of love, hope and forgiveness to overcome hate.”
This is an example of the “greater righteousness” to which believers are called and for which we fervently pray God’s Spirit to produce in each of our lives.
I want to thank Cheryl DiFonzo for coordinating the funeral dinner for Barb Holmes’ family and every other person who helped provide and serve this dinner. I also want to thank Pete, Ron and Annette for leading in the worship at her service. Thank you all for your wonderful ministry to this family we all love.
It is not too late to join the second half of the short-term DVD Bible Study, “The Clash of Kingdoms,” which began Sunday. In the part 2 study, you will continue to follow Paul to Athens and then to Corinth. Damon and Megan are leading this study for older youth and adults. This would be a perfect time to join a small group Bible study, especially if you are not currently involved in one.
We will begin in March two new small groups that meet during the week. Look for details in the next few emails.
Love being your pastor!
Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church