Think

Offer the hope of Jubilee

Sep 2014    

Jubilee, among other things, is about new beginnings: economic, emotional and spiritual freedom; extraordinary generosity; social holiness and justice. God’s promised presence and power are inseparable from this purpose. What this offers to the weak and vulnerable in society is hope. Hope underpins the spirit and values of Jubilee.

They chose to die. On July 18, two convicted drug traffickers were hanged after they decided not to be considered for re-sentencing under new death penalty laws that came into force on January 1 last year. They turned down the opportunity to have their sentences commuted to life, as under these new laws, judges have the discretion to impose life sentences instead of death for certain instances of murder and drug trafficking.

While it was sad that they chose to die, strength and hope in their faith might have given them the courage to make their decision.

Even though these two men were executed for their crime, they did not die in despair, but with hope, both present and future. But, I wonder if it were so in the untimely deaths of the hundreds and thousands in the tragedies of recent weeks – the downing of MH17, the gas leak explosion in Taiwan, and the relentless Israeli-Hamas conflict – and the loved ones they left behind.

Beyond the initial shock, fleeting empathy, inappropriate jesting about the misfortunes of Malaysian Airlines, incendiary exchanges in social media between the pro-Israeli and pro-Arab camps, and the oft-revisited “why God” debate, perhaps Singapore’s upcoming Jubilee – the celebration of our 50th year of nationhood – in 2015 provokes a fresh and needed response in today’s climate of despair and hopelessness.

Jubilee, as commanded by God in the Old Testament, required the nation of Israel to do four things every 50 years: Proclaim one year’s Sabbath rest, cancel debts, release slaves, and return all properties to their original owners. Yet, there is no evidence that Jubilee was observed by Israel. It is unsurprising given such a radical call to compassion.

Despite its earlier failure, Jesus announced his ministry in Luke 4 with words from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Jesus clearly intended His ministry to be understood in terms of “the year of the Lord’s favour”. It was a proclamation that Jubilee is not dead. The anointing of the Spirit is for the very purpose of ushering Jubilee into society and specifically among the weakest and most vulnerable.

Jubilee, among other things, is about new beginnings: economic, emotional and spiritual freedom; extraordinary generosity; social holiness and justice. God’s promised presence and power are inseparable from this purpose. What this offers to the weak and vulnerable in society is hope. Hope underpins the spirit and values of Jubilee.

One life lost to despair and hopelessness is one too many. Jesus responded in a big way with creative ways of doing Jubilee in the social and political conditions of His day, thus replacing mourning with gladness and despair with praise (Isaiah 61:3).

In a smaller way, I serve among prisoners to bring the glorious hope found in Christ to them, ex-offenders and their families. In another way, my father, a firm believer in the power of education to liberate, financially supported the educational needs of children of his staff when they were incapacitated by injury or death.

God calls us – His people – as His agents, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bring hope through innovative Jubilee initiatives to the weakest and most vulnerable in society. Mahatma Gandhi believed: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

Cancel the debt owed to you by your domestic helper or foreign worker. Restore their Sabbaths. Serve and befriend the homeless and depressed. Provide foster care to needy children. Donate generously to voluntary welfare organisations participating in the “Care & Share” national fund-raising movement which the government will match dollar-for-dollar. Promote corrective mechanisms that re-balance economic disparities in your workplace.

What is your way?

Lorinne Kon worships at Paya Lebar Methodist Church. She is married to Siow Aik, a businessman. They have three school-going children. Formerly a banker, she serves in prison-related ministries, including Prison Fellowship Singapore, and is passionate about advocating for, rehabilitating and restoring the marginalised in society.

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