Sunday, May 18, 2008

A fundamental problem

The desert sun high in the sky failed to keep anyone off the sweltering streets. It was the way of life for everyone in this bustling city. But in recent days, things were different. For many Christians, there was fear. After a church leader was murdered, there wasn’t a safe place in town. The Christians were being hunted down and thrown in jail, or even killed.

The government of this small middle-eastern country was controlled by very strict religious rules; enforced by unforgiving religious leaders. Their task force was headed by an extremely devout and fundamental man – "enemy number one" to the church. Every day he went from door to door bursting into homes seeking any Christians within.
This doesn’t seem to trouble us, as he’s off in a distant country – but now it’s getting a lot closer to home. He’s been given orders to come here, to this country – even to this city.

I’ll get back to this story in a moment, but first I want to challenge you. It’s simple to sit in our comfortable, suburban-American homes and think nothing can touch us. It’s easy to think about some of our own ideas and the way our relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ, should shape how we think, and how we act – how we empathize.

The questions I’m bringing is this: imagine you’re in the story I just told and he’s coming your way. What would you do? How would you act in this situation?
Of course as Christians, to answer this we first ask ourselves what Jesus would do. Yes, it is cliché, but that is our goal – to be like Christ. We answer this hypothetical question in kind, but the implications should affect the way we posture our lives. The Christian outlook is radically different than that of the world (Romans 12). Jesus said if we hate in our heart, we’ve committed murder.

Oftentimes in Christian circles we call ourselves "pro-life." But how real is this label? The meaning behind it – the rhetoric and pamphlets all say the same – is that we value life above all. So then: how much is life worth?

It has been said life is priceless, but don’t our actions and ideas seem to place a price on life? It’s innumerable how many times I’ve seen or heard where an idea or an item was worth more than a life, or even many lives.

People have got to have a huge price tag on them if God himself would suffer and die for us (Romans 5:6). Jesus taught us to love our enemies, and to do good to them (Luke 6:27). Do we take Him at his word, or write off these irrational words as lunacy? We must seek, each one of us, for the Christian answer to this. It has got to be dramatically different than the philosophy of the world. People every day are killing over property, killing for ideas, and killing for fun. Shouldn’t our Christian perspective be more loving, forgiving and merciful? Jesus taught us that we are forgiven by the measure we forgive and he also said that the merciful are blessed. If Jesus died for everyone, and we’re taught all are equal in the sight of God, should we not love also, as Christ loved us and died for us? We were God’s enemies, opposed to Him and his ways, until the Son of God died for us… Shouldn’t the Church, the Body of Christ, passionately love others from His example? To suffer love that changes hearts and minds is imperative? What will our life look like when we take Jesus at his word?

The shades are drawn on the window letting sparse light into the stuffy room. Dark shadows, like marionette puppets, dance across the floor. There you kneel in prayer, troubled by the news that this Christian-killer is headed for your town. Sweat beads gather on your forehead and cut their path down your cheeks. You desperately need strength from God to decide the course of action.

“He’s looking for you.” You hear a voice. Panic grips you. “Go to him.”

“What? Are you crazy?” you think to yourself, “he is commissioned to kill us … me!”

“Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my Name before the Greeks and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

In this story you were Ananias and the Christian-killer was Saul, later to be known as Paul. You can read the story in Acts 7-9.

How much are you willing to suffer for Christ?

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