Following Jesus and Doing the Difficult
“…He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Not too long ago, the popular Christian catch phrase was “What would Jesus do?” or WWJD. The intention of the phrase was to make believers take a step back and think about how Jesus would act in a situation and so we too act accordingly in the world to shine His light. The premise behind the phrase was simple – look, discern and then act accordingly. But the actions required, if a serious undertaking of the phrase were to be lived out, were far from simple for an obedient disciple.
Take for instance the verse above from Isaiah 53. This verse was a prophesy which we know Jesus fulfilled when we bore all mankind’s sin on the cross and which He still fulfills as He continues to make intercession for us sinners while He sits at the right hand of the Father. What a profound love Jesus displays for us to copy! A love that I personally have to say is very far removed from the type of love I find myself dishing out each day as I try my best to love those around me.
Each month our family receives the Voice of the Martyrs publication and each month as I read through the stories about my Christian brothers and sisters, the one thing that stands out to me above all others is the ability of these saints to love their transgressors, rather those who have harmed them in usually some unimaginable way.
A story that caught my eye this month was about a young boy in Turkey who was standing strong for Jesus even though he is now only 11 years old. The following is told of the country’s religious tensions and the resulting actions some local Muslim boys have taken towards this boy named Hussein and how he has chosen to view those actions in light of what Jesus commands His believers to do in such situations:
“Though Turkey is a secular country, 96 percent of the Turks are Muslim. Many do not regularly practice their faith, but most believe that all Turks should be Muslim. Leaving Islam for another faith is culturally unacceptable. Christians are unwelcome in many parts of Turkey, despite government claims and a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. Islamic extremists attack Christians and their churches, evangelists are arrested and jailed for sharing their faith with Muslims and those accused of persecuting Christians often go unpunished…One day [the father of Hussein] saw a gang of boys attacking his son. Some hit Hussein in the head and stomach with their fists, while others threw rocks at him and beat him with their sticks. Tears streamed from Hussein’s eyes, and he screamed in pain as the boys dragged him along the ground by the shirt. The boys finally ran away when [Hussein’s father] interrupted their attack…Hussein, now 11, says he could never return to Islam even if forced to endure worse abuse. ‘Christ said we would suffer for him,’ Hussein says. ‘It’s okay to suffer for Christ, and we would be happy to suffer for Christ. The Lord is with me.’”
By the way, if you would like to read more news about the persecuted church and what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide and/or start receiving the Voice of the Martyrs publications you can go to www.persecution.com.
For my family, the topic of loving your transgressor (or at least someone who agrees with the opposition which transgresses against your brothers and sisters in Christ) has been an issue we have had to deal with in our home this year in a very personal way. Since August we have had a Muslim exchange student from Indonesia living with us, who we have agreed to bring into our home as our daughter and sister, giving her all of the privileges that come with those titles.
Unfortunately, the politics and cultural belief systems in Indonesia are almost identical to those in Turkey, which were described in Hussein’s story above. And although given many opportunities to see a perspective of her country she has never been given the chance to see before (that is the Christian perspective), our exchange student has chosen to believe her country in whole functions exactly like the microcosm she lives in at her boarding school. That is, what the government has mandated in regards to the equal treatment of all religions is an acceptable view to the people of her Muslim faith.
For our children, and for my husband and me, this conflict of knowing the truth about the persecution that is happening in Indonesia on a daily basis, while on our side daily seeing our exchange student choose not believe these truths, is heart wrenching. We have been called this year to love her, not from any love we could conjure up on our own - because I have to admit that well dries up rather quickly. But rather, with the love Jesus supplies each day so we can love even in those difficult times.
Some days it is easy to let the love of Christ which is brimming over in me pour out towards this naive girl, and yet some days as I see her coming home from school I need to quickly pray for God to move my heart to a place where I can love her as He desires because there is no reserve from which to pull from and I can feel the tensions inside of me rising.
I have to admit the road we have been walking on this year has not been easy, but the experience has opened the spiritual eyes of our family to realize how we too have a naive way of seeing the world in contrast to the way God sees the world, in complete truth. It is humbling to think that most of the time I act towards the truth God reveals to me in the same way our exchange student acts towards the truth she has been faced with – in complete denial. And yet, Jesus knew I would have a heart that would act this way and He still agreed to die for my sins on the cross and He still makes intercession for me to the Father for the good He desires to bring about in my life. What a great example we have set before us! One which I am grateful is covered in so much grace.