During my preparation for the trip to Cuba I thought a lot about these words from Paul Tillich, “In order to know what is just in a person-to-person encounter, love listens. It is its first task to listen.” Love listens describes my learning experience in Cuba. Visiting various churches and communities in Cuba added breadth and depth to my understanding of how God is at work in the world today.
One of our hosts Pastor Jesús, said, “The truth of God is so large, yet so easy that even a child can understand it.” Then he added, “Christianity isn’t a religion, religion is the lie that tries to cover the truth. Christianity is the truth.” As students, we were tasked with learning from these community leaders how they overcome adaptive challenges. One observation on my part is that they don’t get stuck in ruts the way many of us do. There is simply too much at stake to worry about upholding the rules and precepts of religion, so instead, they focus on following Jesus.
When asked about the hardships, Pastor Jesús said, “God places the Church to serve in whatever state or regime without mixing itself with that regime. I am thankful for the restrictions that exist from 1991 until now. Persecution helps the church, comfort is the enemy, [and] when religion grows Christianity shrinks.”
His insights are interesting for us to ponder. To our ears it may seem foreign to discuss religion as an enemy to Christianity. Afterall, Christianity is a religion. However, it did not begin as an organized religion. But, it did not take long for the church leadership to start deciding what was and what was not orthodox (see Acts 15).
I’ve heard many Christians say we need to keep the main thing the main thing. Of course, that statement presumes there is agreement on what exactly is the main thing. In the churches we visited I think maybe the main thing is urgency. Everything is urgent and why shouldn’t it be, Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Everything for them is also urgent considering that at any time the government can interfere with their church and even confiscate their property.
Based on our conversations with Pastor Jesús there three the lessons we can learn regarding the adaptive challenges facing many North American churches: