The U.S. Embassy in Havana re-opened for the first time since 1961 on Monday, though the official celebration will not happen until Secretary of State John Kerry visits towards the end of the summer. Negotiations between the two countries have been ongoing for nearly two years now and many think that several more years will need to pass before the United States and Cuba truly begin to trust each other once again. However, the presence of an American embassy in the once closed island nation gives both sides hope that the progress can continue.
That said, there are still many questions to be answered. The United States trade embargo on Cuba is still in effect and economic healing cannot begin in earnest until it’s lifted. Even when the embargo stops, many wonder what practical impact it will have in the lives of ordinary Cubans.
President Raúl Castro has spent the last several years attempting to reinvigorate the Cuban economy to little effect. While steps have been taken to promote entrepreneurship and greater financial opportunities, government regulations and civic limitations, such as the lack of reliable transportation, have kept the measures from having much of an impact. In short, for real change to happen, American involvement is not going to be enough.
While Castro assures such change will occur, he also recognizes that it will be slow. After all, one doesn’t simply undo decades of animosity and mistrust overnight. As Azam Ahmed describes, “Cuba will change, yes, but at its own pace and with no apologies.” However, he continues that “For many Cubans, that is reason enough for hope.”
James Williams, president of the advocacy group Engage Cuba, said of the embassy’s opening “It is sort of like a wedding…You’ve spent all this time planning your wedding day, and finally you’re getting to see someone walk down the aisle. Now you have the rest of your life together.”
Time will tell how the marriage between the United States and Cuba turns out. Williams is wise to point out that reopening the embassy is only the first step in the process of developing a mutually beneficial relationship between the two nations. Much more needs to be done and change, on both sides, must continue if the promise of what might be is to become a reality.
Our relationship with Christ is, in a way, similar. While our eternal life is secure from the moment of our salvation, that wedding day when we first begin to walk with the Lord cannot be the totality of our life with God. To paraphrase Williams, we have the rest of our lives together and that time must not be wasted.
When Jesus commanded his disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” he explained that command by telling them that their duties extended beyond “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” They were also commanded to “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Essentially, your relationship with God starts at salvation but it must be lived out through caring enough about that relationship to learn Christ’s teachings and then obey them if it’s to be genuine.
Ultimately, no one outside of God and the individual can truly know where a person stands with him. However, Jesus did follow up his command not to judge others by saying “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44). If we are truly right with God and walking in the kind of relationship he desires, our lives will bear that out and the reverse is true as well. So what kind of fruit is your life producing today?