August 14, 2018

God Have Mercy On the Messenger

The ministry where I serve has students from all over the world. We have many Africans and we have many children of African immigrants. These students come from both Muslim and Christian backgrounds.

Hebrews 13:3b  Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. (NLT)

The 9:15 a.m. student worship service had just ended. The preacher of the day was continuing a series on Philippians. Like most other Sunday morning congregation of teenagers required to go to worship at a church sponsored school, things were a bit sleepy and slow.

At all of our worship services, and throughout the ministry of our school, we evangelize students. We explain the Gospel. We live it out. We explain it. We invite our students to believe it.

We are constantly offering Jesus Christ to those students God brings to this campus.

And every year many of them do, including many of those international students from all over the world and many different spiritual backgrounds. The believe in Christ and they come to our local Baptist church to be baptized.

As I said, we were leaving after the service, and those students who chose to do so were going to small groups. A young African student walked up to me.

“Can I speak to you, Mr. Spencer?”

I looked up and recognized her as a well known student on our campus. Her family had suffered incredibly in one of the African civil wars, and she is extremely grateful to be in America attending school. Her english is excellent. She is well known as a young lady of manners and a pleasant personality.

“What can I do for you?” I asked.

“When I came here to school, I was a Muslim, but after being here for a year, I’ve become a Christian. Now when I go home on break, my parents are asking me if I am going to be a Muslim, and they want me to go to the Mosque with them on Fridays.

“What should I say to them? I don’t want to be a Muslim. I want to be a Christian.”

As I am standing in front of this young woman, and I’m thinking how easily we present Christ to these students; how we sing songs and have fun; how our biggest obstacle is boredom; how we never give a thought to real persecution; real cost or real suffering.

I am thinking that elsewhere in the world, this question is a life definition question. It is an ultimate loyalty question. It is a question that turns worlds upside down.

It is not a game. My young friend quite likely knows something of all of this; perhaps she knows more about it all than I do.

It is not a mistake to ask the question. It may be a mistake to ask someone like me, for whom following Christ has been a journey without any obstacles more serious than inconvenience and my own laziness.

I answer her question. I talk about not knowing what her parents’ attitude is toward Christianity. I say that it is important they hear from her that she has no desire to disrespect them; that she loves and appreciates them and wants to honor them. But she must also say that her faith in Christ can’t be taken away by force and faith in Islam can’t be created by force.

Even if she goes to the mosque with her family- which is the right thing to do while she is living in their home- she must be uncompromising in her faith in Christ.

I send her to speak with some of our staff who have more experience with Muslim families than I do. Even though this is so, they are still Christians like myself; western Christians who have never had any kind of choice close to what this young lady is facing.

This is someone else’s daughter that I am sending to my friends to pray she embraces Christ, even if they torture her. Someone’s little girl.

This is what happens when you evangelize students. They get involved with Jesus, and they walk the road that may lead to stoning, honor killings, acid in the face, and execution.

You never thought about it, because it never cost you much to follow Jesus, but that’s because you are following Jesus in the world of the comfort addicted, tolerance intoxicated west, not the world where parents and family can justify your exile and even execution for being a Christian.

In front of me as I type is a student from India. Yesterday I read what is happening to Christians there. Today, the news is worse.

Five days a week and twice on Sunday, I’ll invite this young man to become a follower of Jesus. If he does, he will go back to that world of Hindu fanatic violence and only God knows what will happen.

Lord have mercy. Have mercy on those who need Christ, on those who believe, and yes, even on those of us who tell others to love, worship, honor and follow Jesus.

Comments

  1. As I read your post, Michael, I can’t shake these words:

    …how our biggest obstacle is boredom; how we never give a thought to real persecution; real cost or real suffering…

    …You never thought about it, because it never cost you much to follow Jesus, but that’s because you are following Jesus in the world of the comfort addicted, tolerance intoxicated west…

    Kyrie eleison–on those who need Him
    Christe eleison–on those who believe in Him
    Kyrie eleison–on we who do not even begin to understand the plight of those you wrote about here

  2. Excellent post. Thank you.

  3. Well said.

    My recent blog entry was along the same lines. I think we are very spoiled here.

  4. This really hit home with me today. I am so grateful for your honest grappling with this. It is a crisis of conscience- I’m glad you don’t blithely ascribe it all to God’s will, and ignore the very human suffering involved with any potential outcome in your international student’s lives.

  5. Thank you for this post. I have been a subscriber to Voice of the Martyrs for years now and frankly, I have been obsessed with learning about the persecuted church. I can’t fully relate to it, because I was raised in a home where I was expected to be a Christian and in a Christian culture that thinks it is persecution if someone doesn’t say “merry Christmas”. Thank you for sharing her story. I will be praying for her and her stand for Christ.

  6. I had a Muslim friend who started attending our Campus Crusade meetings at the University I attended when I was significantly younger than I am now.

    He started coming on his own accord and attended for a couple of years, joining in all the worship, and all prayer. After his first year of doing this, I asked him if he had made a decision for Christ.

    He said to me “Mike, if I had, I couldn’t tell you. If I have trusted Jesus for my salvation, and my brothers somehow found out about it, then each of them would consider it their duty to kill me.”

    I never got more information out of him than that, but he kept freely coming to the worship times, and freely joining in all that was going on. I believe that he came to faith in Christ but wasn’t willing to share it with the rest of the world. What that means for eternity I will leave up to God. We could debate it but only God knows for sure.

    The significance of this was brought home to me several years later when I was reading the sermon on the mount. (Matthew 5)

    When it comes to the “persecuted for righteousness sake” Jesus says that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Not “will be”, but “is”.

    I thought to myself. Being willing to stand up and be persecuted for the name of Christ, is strongly declaring in the here and now that I belong to Jesus and he belongs to me, and nothing anyone can do is going to change that. Their eternity is assured. Nothing is going to change that. “Theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.”

    In the case of the Muslim convert, especially in the case of my friend who faced an almost certain death if went public with his faith in Christ, what a terribly difficult decision to make.

  7. As Christians we are not only called to live the Gospel we are also called to die for it.

    Obviesly I would not ask anybody to die for what they believe in, however it is not me who would be doing the asking.

    “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Apologeticus, Chapter 50)

  8. Sort of puts all of our theological hyperventilating into perspective, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to say that the matters that we discuss and debate aren’t meaningful, but perhaps they aren’t quite as central to the continuing existence of the cosmos as we often make them out to be.

    I don’t feel ashamed to have been born in a place where faith in Christ isn’t going to get me killed, but my freedom obligates me to pray, pray, pray for these kids, these brothers and sisters who are paying the price, and to put legs to my prayers whenever I can. Because they’ve been thrust into the arena, where what really matters most becomes evident to all; “You will be my witnesses (martyrs)…” Their suffering bears witness, and nothing should humble us more who have been spared.

  9. It’s unimaginable to think that people face this horror on a daily basis. Thank you for posting about this; it must have been a tough realization.

    I noticed that there were addresses at the bottom of the article that you referenced. I hate writing official-type letters but this is nuts.

  10. Dunker Eric says:

    I know a pastor from Africa whose family disowned him when he became a Christian.

  11. Michael,
    This article so moved me. May I print it in my local church Newsletter?
    fishon

  12. Of course.

  13. Christopher Lake says:

    Michael,

    Thank you for this post. The sober truth is, professing faith in Christ and sacrificially following Him (which should be inseparable from one another) *should be* matters of life definition, no matter where one lives.

    In America though, Christ is often crammed into our little boxes of physical, material, and emotional comfort, to fit the comfortable lives that we want to live, in our sinful selfishness. In other countries which are openly hostile to the Gospel, believers do not have such a “luxury.”

    Before *God* though, as followers of Christ in America, we don’t truly *have* that luxury– we simply *take* it. Before man, we can often live comfortable Christian lives with little challenge and sacrifice. Before God though, He still calls us to live challenging, sacrificial lives of love for Him, His church, and those who do not know Him.

    Currently, how all of this plays out in the lives of Christians often looks very different in America than in many other countries. Some of that is obviously due to America being more friendly to Christian faith. I think that much of it, however, is simply due to American Christians wanting a “comfortable Christ” over the true Jesus of the Bible.

    Also, I wonder, if more of us in America *did* live radically challenging, sacrificial lives in Christ, how long would it be before we began to experience *real* persecution? Not to sound like a masochist, but I would like to find out the answer to that question in my own life…

  14. The first time I came face-to-face with this issue was during Desert Shield. The Sri Lanken cooks had little crosses tattoed at the base of their thumbs. I asked and was told how they were forbidden to practice their Christian faith. As an American serviceman defending the “constitutional right” to religious liberty, their predicament was unsettling and humbling. I never quite took them for granted again.

    Thanks for the reminder…