Recently, there’s been a stunning story with an accompanying picture in the news—that of a brave aid worker carrying a small child away from the bodies of her family, from under the hijab of her dead mother, and through the deadly gunfire of ISIS fighters.
Sometimes images strike such a deep chord within me that they just won’t let go, especially the pictures of this little girl and the deep wells of sadness looking blankly into the camera.
My thoughts are all over the place as I consider the images of this rescue—the first thing that popped into my mind was that, while many people and the media are busy condemning Christians, particularly the “fundamentalist” type, there are Christians engaged in physically ministering to and rescuing people, everywhere, not just in Iraq. Meeting very real physical needs. Doing what Jesus told us to do, no matter what people say or think about them or what they are doing. Not intimidated by the “bullets” of a hostile culture—Christians ministering in love, generous with time and resources.
But society doesn’t want to see the good Christians do; rather, they would prefer to focus on the fact that we defend the Bible, respect God’s definition of marriage, and seek to preserve human life from its inception.
It is our responsibility, though, to pray for those who oppose us, to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us—that is what Jesus told us to do.
More concerning, in my mind, are the ones who profess to be Christians yet condemn or criticize various ministries on the frontlines of reaching out to those who need a touch of grace. (Also alarming are those churches that seek to discount or provide personal interpretation of scripture to justify sinful behavior.)
Jesus taught us, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:37-38). The context here makes me think that we will get back the judgment and condemnation that we extend towards others…
I know that it is easy to look “with a critical eye” at those who are more engaged than we are in serving Jesus. I also know that when we recognize our sin, confess and repent, that God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse unrighteousness from us (1 John 1:9).
A couple of concerns people have expressed over publicized, high-risk ministry is that the ones in those ministries are exalting themselves. Another perspective, though, is that they are putting their lives at risk by revealing their activities. However, I wouldn’t have known the severity of suffering in the Middle East and other parts of the world if brave warriors for the gospel didn’t make it known. And as disturbing as some of the pictures are, I want to get shaken out of my complacent, lukewarm-Christian way of thinking and “doing life”.
The other concern I have is the argument that those going to distant lands to minister and save children should stay home and focus on their own communities and nation. Not sure I should even say more than what Jesus commanded … “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation’” (Mark 16:15). There are no borders in God’s kingdom, and those who raise this concern might look within their own communities to see that there are many ministries where they personally can become involved by committing their time and resources. Also, there is no ministry we can’t be a part of if we are willing to intercede with God for them.
My plan for where I was going with this post is that we are all called, in one way or another, to spread the love of Jesus in this dying world. People will criticize Bible-believing Christians, let the criticizers and condemners criticize and condemn—meanwhile, let us, you and I, do what Jesus said—be light and salt (Matthew 5:13-16), and take care of the “least”, the smallest of significance in this worlds eyes (Matthew 25:35-45). Rather than sitting back and observing what others are doing, may we push forward, praying for the lost and broken, and serving God in the places He has called us.
Recently I was typing up a prayer I wrote after reading Genesis 21, where we find the story of Hagar and Ishmael, rejected by Sarah and sent out from Abraham’s household: “When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, ‘Let me not look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’…And God was with the boy….” (Genesis 21:15-18, 20).
This is my prayer… Father, I am touched by the compassion you showed towards Hagar and Ishmael—you heard the boy’s voice as he cried out. There are many children nowadays who are crying out in desperation—children who are hungry, who are thirsty, children who are abused, enslaved, and who are suffering in ways I cannot imagine. Hear their cries, O Lord! Reach out your hands and your heart to them through your people. Open our eyes to ways we can nourish and refresh others. Bless and protect those who are risking their lives to save and minister to children and families, I pray!
Convince your people to live with honesty and integrity. When faced with conflict, grant us wisdom and generous hearts, trusting you to take care of us. Help your children to live at peace with others whenever it is possible to do so.
You are our God—the everlasting God—and I commit my ways to you. You are my Savior, my Lord, and my friend, and I trust you. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.