Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Who Will Take His Place?

September 20, 2016 Every so often someone says something that changes the entire way we look at things. Take terrorism, for instance. It's on everyone's mind; our presidential candidates are telling us how they would deal with this ever-increasing threat to our national security, and social media are buzzing with invective pro or con. As a nation, we've invested billions of dollars and sacrificed thousands of lives in the (so far) vain quest to neutralize those who would destroy us. Strategically or politically, I can't say as I have even a slight clue as to what is the best course of action, but this morning I was given another perspective that has me thinking. At an early breakfast meeting in a Rochester diner, my friend was speaking to fifteen men about what it was like growing up under a Communist regime that had no scruples about stooping to bully a six year old schoolchild because of his Christian beliefs. He told them about the American missionary who witnessed to his grandmother back in the '30s, and of the Christian legacy that was passed down from his grandmother to his father, and to him. "She never knew that her witness would change my life. I have lots of reasons to hate," he went on, "but I have one reason to forgive, and that is Jesus." He went on to speak about the hatred that drives terrorists, ending with this statement that has me thinking. "If you kill a terrorist, a hundred more will rise up to take his place. But if you convert him to Jesus, you may transform the lives of that hundred by the love of Christ." I'm a believer in Christian missions. I've seen how leaving one's own culture to share Christ in another affects not only those to whom we go, but also those who do the going. In our own church, we've had people go to Uganda, Nepal, Mongolia, Guatemala, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Cuba, and more. The one place where we don't send many people is to Muslim dominated countries. There may be many reasons for this, including the difficulties inherent in Christians even getting into such countries, but I suspect one of the major reasons is our concern for our safety. When people travel for such mission trips, the most common prayer I hear on their behalf is for their safety. Not for boldness in proclaiming the Gospel, not for people to come to Christ, but for safety of the team; a far cry from the prayers of St. Paul as he sits in a Roman prison, asking prayer that he be bold and clear in presenting Christ to his jailers. In short, we're afraid, and perhaps rightly so. But if we live by our fears, we cannot live by faith. I wonder what would happen if we Christians took my friend's words seriously. Instead of trying to rid the world of terrorists by laws and bullets, what if Christians were to befriend Muslims for Christ? I am not naive enough to imagine that every potential terrorist is going to be won to Christ, and I am not naive enough to believe that our security measures are unnecessary, but alongside them, perhaps we might be bold enough to just attempt sharing Christ with them. Truthfully, I wouldn't know where to even begin with this, but I am grateful tonight for my friend who raised the question and has made me think.

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