By Natalie Yap
I was at a wedding dinner recently and in one of the speeches there was a recounting of how the bride and groom got to know each other. They were based in Sydney, Australia at that point of time and were on a bus ride together to send their overseas ballots in time for GE14. I remember fondly thinking, “What a patriotic way of meeting!”
Now I wouldn’t really consider myself a patriotic person. I do my civil duty by voting and I did volunteer to be a PACA (Polling Agent Counting Agent) during GE14. However, I admit that I am not the most politically aware. Nor am I particularly invested in predicting the Malaysian economy. I do tend to complain about the inefficiency of the government. And I would agree with other people who think that perhaps life could be better outside Malaysia.
I have friends who serve in the government, volunteer during election campaigns, and who are just abreast of all political news. Unlike them, even my grasp of the national language is poor! I am by no means proud of this. But then how can I contribute to my country in a godly manner when I sometimes feel so detached from it?
As I reflect on what it means to be a godly Malaysian citizen, it leads me to wonder what my purpose is as a Malaysian and how to live it out.
Many times we want to focus on finding that specific “calling” that would be unique to our skill sets and gifts to serve our nation. However, I wonder if there is a broader calling which we all can play a part in. A recent prayer from a church friend prompted me to think further, but simply. There were two parts of her prayer that struck me on how we could all live as Malaysians in a way that honours God.
I don’t know about you, but I easily complain about Malaysia, whether it is the weather and traffic or the corruption and cost of living. I think many, including myself, oftentimes fail to give thanks to God for where He has divinely placed us and the circumstances that come with it.
To a certain extent, we believe that where we are born is determined by God’s sovereignty. We know that our citizenship and place of birth have been ordained by Him. Yet, that belief is separated from how we act and what we say. We should be thankful for the things God has given to us rather than complain about our lack when compared to people in other places.
I am reminded that when I complain, and in this context about my country Malaysia, I am essentially saying to God that where He has placed me is not good enough in my books. I deserve better, I deserve more. I deserve to have better buying power, more efficient government systems, better education, more opportunities.
During the prayer, I was convicted that I have not been grateful enough to God for putting me in Malaysia. I have judged my country based on my own selfish desires rather than through the eyes of a good God. As a citizen of Malaysia, I honour God when I choose to be content where He has placed me.
The other part of the prayer that struck a chord with me was the reminder that our ultimate citizenship is in heaven. Without realising, we are hoping and living for the comforts of this world. I am guilty of being caught up in wanting to work hard to amass wealth so I can live in comfort here.
We want to be prepared and equipped to handle life as best as we can here in Malaysia. Because of this, we strive and toil so that we will be able to enjoy the fruits of our labour. However, we know that because of sin, our work will always be met with frustration and futility.
Due to the curse of the ground, our work on earth will never be able to satisfy us. But we still work as if it does! We labour and await work opportunities, investment returns and public recognition more eagerly compared to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
While wanting to work hard for our best, albeit temporal, life here is not wrong, it is dangerous and foolish to make that our sole purpose. When we put all our energy and focus to ensure our own comfort and gain, more often than not we forget about a different kind of work that prepares us for our permanent residence with King Jesus.
This work may call us to reject work opportunities for the sake of discipling families, to give away wealth for the sake of the local churches, to spend time with people we dislike for the sake of the Gospel.
Honouring God as a Malaysian means using the opportunities given to me here to ultimately prepare myself for a heavenly citizenship where He is seated as King. As I toil and do my best in and for this nation, I want to remain hopeful of the eternal life that is ahead of me.
Simple yet intentional
After saying all this, what I am not saying is that we should put aside being aware about the political on-goings of Malaysia or to be apathetic about serving our country in practical ways. But rather to also allow contentment and hopefulness to shape the way we speak and think about Malaysia. In this simple yet intentional way, we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27).
As I ponder further on how to love Malaysia in this time and season, I think about the Gospel and God’s love to all nations. In my weakness I pray for a stronger desire that compels me to partner with Jesus in making God’s love known to my fellow Malaysians.
May this desire for the Gospel be found in the hearts of all Malaysians who know and love Him.
This opinion piece was produced in collaboration with YMI.today, a platform for Christian young people all over the world to ask questions about life and discover their true purpose. For more information on YMI, click here.