Monday, April 19, 2010

Pakistan Part One

Note: I was asked to write a short article about persecution in Pakistan for our church newsletter. This is part one, giving background, and I'm going to interview a family in our church that recently left Pakistan for a second part in a couple of weeks.

In the aftermath of genocides, the world community has developed a na├»ve but standard response. “We didn’t know, so we couldn’t respond, but we’ll try to do better next time. Never again!” From the Holocaust to Cambodia to Rwanda, all too often the world looks the other way until it is too late.

As members of the body of Christ, we must be aware of what is going on across the globe, right now. In dozens of countries, millions face severe restrictions, imprisonment, and death because of their minority status. Our connection to these goes far beyond shared humanity – they are family, brothers and sisters in Christ. In one particular place, persecution is severe and rising.

Pakistan is a tumultuous country, sharing tense borders with Afghanistan and India. Internal and international rumblings and connections with terrorism are often highlighted in the news. But for Pakistan’s three million Christians, less than 2.5% of the population, their persecution often goes unnoticed.

At times, the world takes note, as it did last month when six World Vision workers were murdered. But we cannot realize the courage it takes to walk into church knowing one might not get to walk out. Harsh Islamic law means that on average, at least one Pakistani Christian is imprisoned and another killed each month, often on trumped up blasphemy charges. Whole Christian villages have been destroyed, and many more homes and churches burned. Splinter groups from both the Taliban and al-Qaeda actively pursue Christians. Brother Andrew’s organization Open Doors ranks Pakistan as the fourteenth most persecuting country in 2010.

So what can we do? The honest answer is that we are limited in how we can respond. But three things are essential. First, educate yourself and those around you. Be aware of the persecution that is threatening so many of our brothers and sisters around the globe. As you do this, pray. Use the information you’ve learned to pray specific prayers for persecuted Christians. Sign up for updates from The Voice of the Martyrs or Open Doors, and pray as you receive news from believers around the world. Finally, reach out to internationals here in our own community. Many have their own stories of persecution, as well as family in areas where they may still be at risk. Get to know them personally and pray with them.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Calling, Butterflies, and Fools

I'd been helping my brother collect for the biology insect collection for about an hour. There seemed to be a certain butterfly that was taunting us, as Robert made several attempts to catch it. It was man enough to not fly above and beyond the trees, but it always seemed to stay just out of reach. (This prompted Robert's status update: "Freakin' Lepidoptera! You know who you are!") Robert had chased it all the way down and back up the field for a couple of minutes. I was determined to get it, so I grabbed the net.

For a full minute or so, my full attention was completely on capturing the freaking Lepidoptera. Sprinting, pivoting, almost tripping, sidestepping back as it fluttered just ahead of my swinging, swooping net, I was oblivious to everything else - the weeds I was crashing through, my brother's tired laugh, the cars honking as they passed on their way to the soccer game. I didn't care, because I was going to catch it.

I looked like a fool in the process, but I caught it.

Driving home, I thought about the chapter I had recently read in Os Guinness' book The Call - "Everybody's Fools."

"Fools for Christ" are not actually, or literally, or objectively fools but those who are prepared to be seen and treated as fools for Christ's sake. Since the world in its pretended wisdom foolishly thinks itself wise, it sees God's true wisdom as foolishness. Those faithful to God must therefore break with the world and bear its folly. They are what I call "foolbearers," acting out of love for Christ and wearing the world's shame as a badge of allegiance and honor.

Guinness acknowledges that "Holly folly has unquestionably gained a bad name in some Christian circles and for solid reasons. Sometimes it inspired what looks like plain weirdness...sometimes it has been used to justify flagrant anti-intellectualism..."

I've spent a lot of time in the past couple of years thinking and trying to be anything but a fool. I want to be an intellectual Christian. I want to communicate with media with excellence, not at the sub-par level expected from anything with a "Christian" label. At some level, these pursuits are good. We're called to love God with all our minds and all our strength. Our work as creators made in the image of the Creator should be excellent. But the focus has to be on God and His glory, not 'engaging (read: impressing) the world' or being 'relevant' or any other catchphrase or side effect.

Christians have made mistakes in the last century when it comes to interacting with culture and being intellectual, and it's not wrong to want to move beyond these. However, I'm forced to acknowledge how often my motivation for not being foolish is purely selfish and not to glorify God. Who do I think I am? Am I better than the prophets? The apostles? Jesus?

Calling entails the cost of discipleship. The deepest challenge is to renounce self and identify with Jesus in his sufferings and rejection.

Foolbearing is essential to calling because it is the true way to count the cost of identifying with Jesus. It is the price of obeying His call, renouncing self, and taking up the cross to follow Him.

Foolbearing is essential to calling because it positions us unmistakably before the world as a counterculture, antithetical to the world's very being. In the gospel there is an antithesis to the world that we dare no relax, a cost to discipleship that we cannot waive, a challenge to obedience that we must not conceal, and a scandal to faith that we should never airbrush away. If loyalty to those truths puts us beyond the pale, so be it.

Foolbearing is essential to calling because it is Christ's way of responding to injury. All of us as followers of Christ will flinch at times from the pain of wounds and the smart of slights, but that cost is in the contract of calling and the way of the cross.

I'm called to chase greater things than butterflies. I'm called to seek God and His Kingdom and righteousness. I can't remember the last time I pursued those things with half the focus and abandonment I gave the freaking butterfly. I'm a fool!

I'm a fool who desperately needs to die to myself and take up my cross and become a foolbearer, to the glory of God alone.