Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dealing with Islamic Aggression

The fact that Christians in Islamic nations endure persecution is nothing new. And the fact that some elements of Islam are becoming more radicalized is not new. But since The Seventh Sola often reacts to things in the news, I will need to make some comment about this article in the ASSIST News Service. 

In the article, writer Jeremy Reynolds tells the story of 16-year-old Ryan Stanton, a Christian youth from a Christian family living in Karachi, Pakistan. As you see from the article, a frenzied Muslim mob ganged up on the kid over supposed "blasphemy" of Muhammed via a cell phone text message. It appears that someone else sent the message from Ryan's phone, but Ryan is getting the blame for it.

Okay, let's say some things as givens - at least in my view. 1. Christians do need to be sensitive in Muslim cultures. 2. Muslim nations DO have the right to protect themselves from armed aggression, and they do have a right to their own laws, which must be respected. However:

3. That does NOT mean that persecution of Christians and other religious groups ought to be tolerated by societies that claim to be civilized. 4. Muslims do not have the right to impose their faith by force on any human being. When that is tried, then nations and individuals have the right to defend themselves and to refuse being forced into another belief.

Now that all of this has been said, there is a paragraph in the story that I find troubling as a Christian. And it is this:

Ryan said, "Of course I knew (consequences of making anti-Islamic statements). I've lived all my life in Pakistan. I know the grave consequences of such a charge. Besides, we Christians are taught from childhood to avoid discussing religion with our Muslim friends and neighbors."

If you are a true believing, practicing Christian and not a Christian of the nominal variety, this ought to be very troubling to you. And the reason is that such an idea/practice is in direct disobedience to Christ Himself. We are commanded as believers to "Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every nation." There are no escape clauses in that command. Note that we are not to spread the faith by force or compulsion. Far from it. But we are to share the Gospel as the Lord grants us opportunity. We are not to hide our light under a bushel.

I don't want to seem insensitive to Christians who are living in tough parts of the world. I acknowledge that it's easy for me to write this from the safety of America. If you are under the point of a gun or blade of a sword, that in essence will be a test of your faith like no other. God forbid that I ever have to experience such a thing, and thank God that I live (for now) in a land where I am not faced with such trials. Yet for many years now, I have worked with a Christian organization serving believers and churches in countries where persecution is severe. And the life attitude of these faithful believers informs my viewpoint. They know the risk. But they also know they have a sovereign Savior, and know that their ultimate obedience is to Him. And they boldly proclaim their faith.

I—like ALL true believers—have to be true to God's Word, and God does not promise us as believers that we will be spared persecution. In fact, He warns us that the righteous shall live by faith, and that if we shrink back, He finds no pleasure in us. That's in Hebrews. In fact, the book of Hebrews has quite a sober litany of faith heroes. I'll close this post with that passage:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 

Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 11:32-12-3).

*Sola's note: As an aside, I've often wondered at the "blasphemy" charges in Muslim nations. One blasphemes God. You don't blaspheme a "prophet" or a human political/religious leader. If someone is critical of Muhammed, that is not tantamount to being critical of God. Remember Nathan the Prophet's boldness in laying into King David for his sin with Bathsheba. Also, in the economy of God, false prophets come under righteous condemnation. I tend to think this current violence is nothing more than an intimidation tactic to bully people into submission. It needs to be punished by appropriate governmental authority, and severely. And nations that are under the threat of such aggression need to defend themselves with severity, and make the cost of aggression way too high.

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