Friday, October 24, 2008

Ready to Live, Ready To Die

Gayle Williams was an aid worker who was martyred this week at the age of 34. She was described as someone who "always loved the Afghans and was dedicated to serving those who are disabled... She herself would not regret taking the risk of working in Afghanistan. She was where she wanted to be -- holding out a helping hand to those in need." The Taliban claimed responsibility for her death.

Yesterday I attended a women's luncheon at my church. Let me say that I attend a wonderful church which happens to be in a beautiful, wealthy area. Our struggles in the church are not such as dealing with poverty, but more of how to deal with wealth. There are some truly devoted people in my church who do use their wealth to advance God's kingdom, and then there are some who are there only because the church is close to where they live, and convenient to attend. So we have a variety of people at my church, but the most visible are the beautiful, wealthy ones.* All that to say, that I attend a "safe", church in a historic building, crammed full of people who have never been made to suffer for naming the name of Christ (and I am one, too), and yesterday we all attended a beautiful luncheon, each table decorated with fresh roses, places set in perfect order, gifts beside our plates, and delicious food and dessert to munch on while we heard a speaker talk about, of all things, mercy and hope.

What is my point? I don't know how to suffer for Christ because I've never been made to. Our speaker yesterday pointed out that we should never begrudge the happy days God gives us, that we have to deal with them like we do the bad days. God gives both. But you know, I feel so very strange to have it so easy here. I'm not asking for persecution, and in all honesty, I don't want it. But the rest of the world is dealing with suffering every day, and my greatest concerns are what to wear next, or if I should change jobs, or which friends to spend time with. I am happy and have a wonderful life right now, and praise God for such a gift. I'm not saying I never cry from emotional hurts or physical pain, but these things are never inflicted by others because I am a Christian, and that makes a lot of difference. I thought this statement from an article about Gayle Williams strikes the point I have been trying, in a very roundabout way, to make:

"When confronted by the stories of those who live their faith among people who hate them for it, I am inspired, saddened, thankful, and convicted all at once. The death and murder of Gayle Williams startles those at ease to reflection. The pervasive opposition in the lives of believing university students awakens even seasoned believers to their own apathy. How courageous is the believer who follows Christ among those who hurl insults and hostility? How treasured is the Bible that must be buried in the backyard for protection? How sacred is the faith of one who is willing to die for it?"

The author goes on to say:

"Mark Twain once said, 'Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.' For those of us who live the faith we profess without challenge, trial, or risk, reflection may well be appropriate. Is it possible that we have so shut ourselves up in Christian circles that we have closed ourselves off from the unbelieving world and hence any chance of suffering for Christ? Is it possible that we are so at ease among the majority that we avoid venturing out as the minority among those who might hate or hurt us? Certainly we experience hostility and persecution indirectly; Bill Maher’s new film Religulous is one example among many. But how we are personally interacting with the angry, the lost, and the broken masses Jesus once wept over is another thing entirely. How effectively we live as 'the salt of the earth' that Jesus described depends on our place and posture within it. Surely salt that remains content within the shaker has lost its saltiness."

Read the article in it's entirety here, then reflect on your position as a Christian, and whether you are ready to live, suffer, or even die for the name of Christ.

*Let me say this also about my church: there is an active emphasis on reaching out to the urban areas surrounding the church and beyond, we also send out a great many missionaries, and we are beginning to see more ethnicity represented in the services. The leadership knows it's challenges and is attempting to respond accordingly. Not all people who attend are who's who or have enviable jobs, homes, wealth. We are beginning to see, and we do rejoice in, the variety of people who are coming in as a result of active service by church members in various urban areas.

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