Archive for ‘persecution’

September 11, 2010

Love, Hate and 9/11

Nine years after 9/11 and it might as well have been yesterday considering all the emotional turmoil that has been blown into the atmosphere by the political-religious implications of both a mosque being built near the site of the attacks as well as a pastor from Florida wanting to burn the Quran today as some act of condemnation. The issue at stake for most of us is to figure out how we should feel, think and respond to these three events. That’s right. They are three events – and two haven’t even happened yet.

Most of the filtering that I have been exposed to has dealt with amendment rights. However, I am more concerned with Christian obligation. What should a Christian response be?

Let me start of with a story from Bob Sjogren from Unveiled at Last.

You remember a church service you attend back in the winter of 1980 during the Iranian hostage crisis, when 52 Americans were held hostage by terrorists in Teheran…Glancing at the order of service in the bulletin, you saw that Greg Livingstone was scheduled to give a “missions minute.”

“Right,” you thought. “This guy’s really going to be able to say something significant in 60 seconds. The one-minute missionary.”

The anthem ended and a square man who looked like a boxer stepped up to the podium. Without so much as an introduction, he asked, “How many of you are praying for the 52 American hostages held captive in Iran?”

You, of course, raised your hand. All present raised their hands. “Wow, that’s terrific,” he said. “There must be 4,000 people here.”

“Now, let’s be just as honest; Jesus is watching. How many of you, ” the boxer continued, “are praying for the 45 million Iranians held captive by Islam?”

One hand slowly went up. Two hands.

“What? Only two people?” he yelled. “What are you guys, Americans first and believers second?” (p.55-56)

I have to ask about our concerns over the mosque being built are we Americans first and believers second? Are we more concerned political and patriotic sensibilities that the demands of the gospel? What is the demand of the gospel in this situation? Do you see the Muslim as your neighbor? Or do you see him as your enemy? It really doesn’t matter how you see him does it because our heart, which should be full of grace to all without qualification should respond the same to both.

Let’s see if Jesus can give us some guidance.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48 ).

What, then, is at stake? Yes, on one level it is patriotic sensibilities. But on another level – the more important level, for the child of God, it is about God being glorified. Notice that love demonstrated toward just those who are part of your community, whatever that community is, is not much and it certainly does not reflect the redeeming, saving, life changing power of God’s love. If our reaction is first as an American then we might perchance want to first rise in protest against the mosque being built near 9/11. And if we were not of God’s Kingdom then we might be willing to ignore the outrageous-ness of a book burning – any book burning, much less a book burning of another religion. And to think that any other person on the face of the earth is dealt the hand of persecution from a Christian is an offense to the very nature of the cross which our Christ bore.

But God proclaims and teaches all the nations of the earth the power of his love because Christians have a love that overcomes the deathblow of an enemy with a kiss and prayer in return.  Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived the gospel when he taught that a true understanding of the grace of God could lead to the loss of a Christian’s life as he loves his enemies – a reality that became real when he was hanged in a German prison camp a week before liberation. His life did not end with bitterness, but praise and thanksgiving that he could defend the helpless, bring light to the wicked actions of the oppressors and love them all indiscriminately. He told his executioner, “You think you are ending my life, but it is only beginning.” (a loose rendition as I can’t find the exact phrase this moment).

A Christian’s stance on the mosque in New York City then must be, first and foremost, concerned with loving Muslims in such a way that we do not create new barriers to the proclamation of the gospel. If some injustice is actually occurring with the building of the mosque near Ground Zero – and that is something each person must workout for him/herself – then the Christian response is to figure out how to love in such a way as to make it overly, abundantly obvious that an injustice is occurring without engaging in hateful rhetoric or actions. Jesus again gives us guidance if this is your conviction. Matthew 5:41  “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” This response would require creativity with an overly abundant gracious response. Think that even Donald Trump has offered to pay over 125% value of the property to the owners in order to end the conflict. If Christians are so convinced it is wrong then we should be offering 500% or more as one possible alternative.

This stance should also inform those who want to give a pass to the pastor in Florida. His actions are not in alignment with Christ’s instructions to us. Burning books is not love. Proclaiming the errors of the Quran and dialogue and living a life of mercy ministry among Muslims is love. Creating additional boundaries of mistrust through the abuse of their values is not. No Christian would available for in-depth searching dialogue with a Muslim on-board on of the airplanes who crashed into the world towers if he (theoretically) could proselytize us after said event. Why would you expect a Muslim to respond any different? Do we value the Bible or the Trade Towers more? Now flip it over as a Muslim – no question that a holy book gets the nod.

Which really brings me back to what you need to figure out – are you first an American or a Christian? The answer to that question will dictate the attitude of your heart.

August 20, 2010

Pinching Jesus’ Cheeks

Ever been in the place where you feel that  if Jesus were standing in front of you that you would pinch his cheeks?

For example –

Jesus:    Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall  (Matthew 7:24-27).

Me:  Awe, aren’t you cute (Pinching Jesus’ cheeks ensues in a manner similar to seeing a new born baby with hamster cheeks and you just can’t help but pinch them). Isn’t Jesus cute! (I exclaim to others around me).

– or –

Jesus:   I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14.6).

Me: Uh, yeah, okay. Sure thing (Slight squeeze with a little hand slap like when we want to chase a child off).

– or –

Jesus: Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand (Luke 14:27-31)?

Me: YEAH (Pinching Jesus’ cheeks like you do with another adult that you’d like to knock out, but don’t because it just isn’t a good idea)!

Does this sound a little sacrilegious? Well, it is, but I got to admit that I think we all pinch Jesus’ cheeks every once in a while. Because the one thing that pinching cheeks seems to connote is that you know better. Pinch the little baby’s cheek, because she is so cute and her precocious preciousness is fleeting and you know it. Pinch the child’s cheek in a condescendingly affectionate way because you see the bigger picture and he doesn’t. Squeeze your friend’s cheek because he is belligerent and arrogant and you are warning him to back down without getting hostile.

Often in our walk with God we struggle with the idea that we know better than God. As Christians, we struggle with God’s instruction. Perhaps we struggle with our love for materialism and don’t want to heed God’s warnings (Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13). Or the idea of being married is so important to you that you think that God’s wise instruction not to be unequally yoked doesn’t apply to your situation (2 Cor 6:14). Or that your life belongs to you (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23).

Or you want an easy life – not the life of Bill Gates, but a life without turmoil and hardships. I think this is the place where we are most likely to fall into the trap of pinching Jesus’ cheeks – you know, actually thinking we know better.  Fortunately, our wisdom is God’s foolishness (1 Cor 1:25) but we must wrestle with coming to terms with these difficulties.

After all, we do have promises such as 2 Timothy 3:12, where we are reminded that ” In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. ” I love this verse because it reminds me that the requirement to be persecuted is not living a godly life in Christ Jesus, but wanting to live a godly life. All you have to do is desire it. And Paul includes things like being shipwrecked, labor, hardship, being hungry and thirsty, cold, without clothes, insomnia as part of his list of persecutions he experienced in 2 Corinthians 11. So persecutions can manifest themselves in many ways because “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens (Ephesians 6:12).”

But there are other reasons for difficulties too. Things such as God gives blessings and sufferings indiscriminately to those who live in His creation (Mt 5:45), God disciplines those he loves (Heb 12:5-11), that the universe groans under the consequences of sin and that these consequences are a reminder of our needing salvation (Rom 8:22-25), that by our suffering Christians exhibit to the world Jesus’ sufferings so they know who it is that can save them (Col 1:24), and all of this ultimately leads to the glory of God (Rom 5:2-4).

But this all leaves me with a question. How does this knowledge help me? I’ll attempt to answer this question in my next post.

February 24, 2010

Videos Pulled

The videos in relation to the persecution of Christians in India have been pulled. They are currently being verified as actually depicting what they claim to depict – that is Christians being beaten and killed in India. If it turns out the videos are not true then they will be deleted from my website. I’ll post an update when I find something out.

Still, we know that persecution, beatings and murders occur to Christians throughout much of the world today. Prayer is still needed.

February 23, 2010


Comfortable Christian in America? Then you owe it to yourself to watch these videos. A couple of warnings: 1. These are graphic videos. 2. Don’t watch them if you have any other responsibilities in the next 30 minutes. All together they will run for about eleven minutes, but I pray the impact leaves you planted and rooted in prayer for the rest of that half hour. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t.

One other word before you watch these videos. Counting the Cost has been a theme for me lately. Luke 14:26-35 being the text that has led this charge. I find this text popping up everywhere. Multiple sermons by different pastors, using it as a theme in our evangelism time on Wednesdays this semester, coming across it in books, but most importantly the Holy Spirit has laid the necessity of its truth in everyday life upon me in an almost incarnational way.   Jesus speaks

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters– yes, and even his own life– he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him,  saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’  “Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000?   If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.  “Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty?  It isn’t fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it out. Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!

Count the cost.

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