His name will never be remembered. The circumstances which took the lives of over 300 companions may well disappear from the public mind in a short time, but his words will echo in my own mind for some time, for they were words of faith. As one of a handful of survivors of the ill-feted vessel which sank off the coast of Indonesia in this past week – nearly 400 people seeking a new start in a peaceful land – this man was asked whether he would do it again. His answer, knowing all the risks, was a resolute “Yes”. He would try again. He wanted asylum in Australia, and was prepared to risk his life again endeavouring to achieve it.
In the face of his response, I pause to ask what is behind it. Is it escape from a despotic regime in which he was born and persecuted? Or is it the call of hope rooted in a soil known to him as Australia? What would I do in similar circumstances?
Faith requires a large measure of perseverance: the ability to get back up and move on again after being knocked down; the willingness to risk failure once more in the hope of realising a dream; the character to challenge obstacles which stand in one’s path rather than surrender to circumstances. Clearly, then, faith requires not only a dissatisfaction with things as they are, but an earnest belief in the possibilities of what is to come. This man, and others like him, are pictures of faith posted daily before our eyes: pressing forward, driven and called by a hope.
To dream of a land better than the one we know: this is faith. To press on towards this place, to give all in order to attain it: this is an image akin to the parable of the pearl of great price. To know with certainty that the land we once called home is not where we belong: this is the seed-bed of God’s kingdom. To be ridiculed, persecuted, ostracised, and opposed: this is the inevitable consequence of faith. Ancient christians were happy to welcome that as their lot. Sometimes it seems like modern christians are happier to inflict it on others.
Out there, in the waters between Indonesia and Australia, there is a significant challenge to be found: not merely a political challenge, but an image of faith at work – yet only for the things of this world. How much more should we be prepared to strive for that which is of the kingdom of God?
October 28, 2001