The Human Condition
By Mark Doerksen
We are in the midst of Lent as I write, and one of the themes that I have always returned to during Lent is that of the human condition. When I was pastoring a local church, one fellow in that congregation, who loved movies, would arrange Friday night movies that were helpful in exploring the human condition. We were in the midst of our Lenten Movie Nights in 2020 when COVID hit, and we haven’t returned to this practice, but I am hopeful that we will.
We would watch, for example, Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese, a historical drama depicting the attempts to spread the Christianity in Japan, and then discuss our insights and reactions to the movie. In that movie, the question of renouncing one’s faith given the choice of continued life or immediate execution figures prominently.
Yet the human condition is not only to be explored in movies. I have been reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and the book has in mind the story of Cain and Abel, as it explores family life in the Salinas Valley of California. The main protagonist, Cathy Ames, is described by Steinbeck as having a “malformed soul,” and the novel goes on to explain what that looks like through various diabolical episodes in her life. I’m tempted to think, as I read, that I’m glad I’m not as malformed as Cathy.
The morning of writing this, I was reading Daniel 6, and Tremper Longman’s commentary on that passage. This is the chapter where Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den and survives. I was struck by the human condition of his accusers; they were expert manipulators, motivated by jealousy, who capitalized on Daniel’s faithfulness—a faithfulness that turned again to ingrained habits of prayer in the midst of increased persecution.
If only we could compartmentalize descriptions of poor behavior to movies and books and Bible stories. Unfortunately, we also witness poor behavior amongst nations, in our churches, in our families, in our own lives. This week, news came out about another influential pastor who committed clergy abuse with a congregant. It’s discouraging, to be sure, yet also a reminder of our own potential for behavior that is detrimental to our churches, others, and ourselves.
And yet, hidden in Lent, in this time of reflecting on our human condition, there remains the promise of Easter. Easter—the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, the story that Daniel’s experience foreshadowed—reminds us of the surest of remedies for our human condition. If you’re like me, sometimes you need reminding.
Meet Rev. Zabiak Cung Biaka
I strongly believe that God has had His high calling for everyone who accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. I am from a very remote area in Burma; even today there are no cars and electricity in the village. Everyone is still using wood and charcoal for cooking, and a candle, chimney, and pinewood at night to light up their home.
When I was 16, God called me to serve and follow Him. The road of His calling was fearful, painful, and at the same time, beautiful and meaningful, because I was just a teenager. I was enjoying my teenage life as much as I could, without knowing God before He called me.
When I got to know more about the love of God and learnt that the Lord needs me and wants my youth for His kingdom, God wanted me to leave and give up the most worldly, pleasurable things that I used to enjoy and turn my life the other way around—to pick up my cross and follow Him.
I remember, just before I attended Bible college, that I visited our neighbouring village. We attended a Wednesday night church service. That night, the speaker was absent and one of the church elders came to me and asked me if I could preach. I was so nervous, “What do you want me to do?” I was not prepared for a message, because I was just there to join the service. But the elder was serious. He said because I was from another village, they would like to hear “how is God working in your life.” “Oh no, oh my God, what should I say and what Bible verses should I read? Thank you, God, I could share my testimony and the goodness of God in my life.”
That was the moment that I learned how important a minute is for Christ. I must be ready to preach the Gospel anytime, anywhere, within season and out of season. The Lord had trained me before I was in Bible college. As a teenager, the Lord gave me His good news to share as a Sunday school teacher, church elder, missions director and evangelist. The Lord trained me and prepared me as one of His servants to climb up, step by step, through these ministries. After I graduated from seminary, I received a call and was ordained as a pastor to look after churches and continue His calling of evangelism. I am working as a pastor at three different congregations.
I immigrated to Canada, Regina, in December 2006. It seemed like there was no way and no doors were open for me to continue my ministries for the Gospel. There were only three families and they spoke Karen. I had never met these three and had never heard this language in my life.
My wife asked me to move to another city where there were more people of my kind, but my prayers and the call of God were not in other cities or places. Just like Abraham when God calls him, “wherever you are, I will be with you,” I strongly believe that God had already planned something for me in Regina.
I live in North Central, Regina, which has one of the highest crime rates in Canada. I questioned God, “Why did you put me in this place where my family does not have a peaceful time and sleep soundly?” The answer of God is, “l chose you and put you here for a purpose. I will move you when it is needed. I said, “Thank you Lord for choosing me, let Your will be done.” My house door and car doors have been broken a few times. I’ve met many dangerous strangers, but I say to God, “This is Your will, let all these people accept You as their Lord and Saviour.” My prayer is to change North Central into a better, peaceful place in Regina, not only the place but also the people—to turn them Christ. I would like to close my story with these two Bible verses; Luke 18: 27- “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Philippians 4: 13- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Rev. Zabiak Cung Biaka
Pastor at Chin Christian Fellowship of Saskatchewan