Ed’s note: This opinion piece by Vitolia Mo’a was initially published in May 2017. Given the recent debate about Samoa becoming an official Christian state, we have obtained permission from Vitolia to republish this today
May 27, 2016
I have tried following the opinions and concerns raised in the Samoa Observer regarding the subject of the ‘The Christian God of Samoa.’
I strongly believe that there ought to be serious discourses and conversations around this very important subject on every level of society. And such conversations and reflections on the God of Jesus Christ must have at its basis wisdom (enlightened faith), discernment, and utter humility. This is because the God of Jesus Christ cannot be a reflection of our human thinking and ideas seeking to mold the divine into human images birthing ideologies.
The God of Jesus Christ is a God of revelation and revealed most plainly and visibly in and through Jesus Christ. The Christians, (like every human person in the world) are but weak, wayward, and stumbling followers of Christ.
We pray every day for God’s grace: to know the mind of Christ; comprehend his will; recognise his ways; grasp his truth; and live faithfully his life. We pray every day that through God’s Spirit working within us we act to transform our world, our environments, our relationships, and our spheres of influence for the common good thus manifesting God the source of all goodness.
So, we have come to know much about God in and through Jesus, the God-made-human, who is like us and un-like us. We have come to know and understand the nature of God from Jesus: That…
• God is love: God’s love embraces everyone and everything that God loved into being, created through the Spirit and born out of God’s Word. Every human person, of every tribe and nation, (and regardless of religious beliefs), comes into being as an act of God’s creative love. God the Creator and source of existence is an article of our Christian faith
• God is mercy: God sent Jesus, his only Son, to redeem the world manifesting God’s compassion for all that is His. And God’s mercy is everlasting; condemnation is an end-time event. Patience and waiting for people to come home is God’s existential stance
• God’s redemptive plan is universal: The followers of Jesus Christ cannot have a project different from this. There cannot be a partisan plan. There are no ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’, and privileged elite in God’s scheme of things. All stand in need of God’s saving grace
• God plays no favourites: Jesus lived, died, and rose for every human person – for all of God’s children. He came to fulfill God’s plan: to draw all of humanity to God and all of humanity to each other in love, peace, joy, and relational rightness; Just as the sun and the moon rise on all - the good, the bad, the mediocre, the sleep-less self-righteous, and the devilish. It is not of God to play one set of cherished children against another
• God is just: God’s nature is primarily relational and mutual as is in the life of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The justice of God recognises distinctiveness and unity of entities in reciprocity of love and equality. Uniformity and conformity are antithesis of justice – the biblical notion of relating in mutual rightness
• God is neighbourly: An audience of Pharisees and priests, the keepers of purity of the Law, practice, and religious identity challenged Jesus to define ‘neighbour’ as Jesus was teaching about the law of loving God and the neighbor. As an illustration, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story known to every Christian. The Samaritans were deemed heretics by the Jews and for this fact were despised and treated as dangerous outcasts. To the Jews, the Samaritans held very wrong ideas about God and so did not share the same God as them. The parable highlighted the pitfalls of institutionalised religion whereby people, in this instance, the Pharisee and the priest, authoritative figures of the ‘true religion’, failed miserably in the exercise of the law of love and mercy when confronted with situations outside the perimeters of religious beliefs and practices, as in the case of a fellow Jewish compatriot dying by the roadside. The Pharisee and the priest were trapped and locked down by religious precepts and ideologies incapacitating the human heart. The Samaritan, on the other hand, free from notions of religious purity and superiority saw only the face of the human person in distress and performed the ‘good’. ‘Who, then, is the neighbor?’ asked Jesus. The Samaritan with theologically unsteady ideas about God. Who did Jesus commend? The religiously heretical Samaritan whose heart is free to love, to succor, to serve, and to do good; Good, incidentally, can only come from God, the source of all goodness and mercy. They do not originate from the devil.
What then might be the task of people whose God is the God of Jesus Christ in these times when huge sections of our world communities are in real danger of being wiped out as a result of hatred and violence perpetuated by a twisted sense of religious supremacy and ethnic domination? Should not the followers of Jesus reject all notions and symbols of institutionalised religious extremism, cultural sectarianism, dogmatism, and intolerance? Should they not reject methods of exclusion and isolation?
It is not for the followers of Christ to circumscribe God. Rather, it is their responsibility to strive always in faith, humility, and prayer to clearly understand the mind and heart of Jesus and as far as possible faithfully live his way of life.
May we continue to have the fale-talimalo stand in the malae fronting the homes of our families, communities, and villages - open and spacious – the symbols of our cultural values of hospitality, acceptance, reciprocity, mutuality, service, kindness, protection, and love for all the travelling neighbours.
These are signs that Samoa is founded on God – the God of Jesus Christ.