A Painful Confession: How Do Christians Today Not Deny or Trample on Christ?

The administration wanted him to trample on Christ.

The Japanese officials wanted him to deny Christ, to take the sole of his foot and press it into the image of Christ, a copper cast of His Savior pressed into the dirt, what the Japanese call the fumi-e.

“Trample. Go ahead —- trample on Him.” 

Over and over again, the Japanese officials urges the Christian to deny his God and walk all over Him.

In a cavernous theatre, with only 3 other people sitting somewhere up in the dark behind us, I find it hard to keep remembering to breathe through each scene of the historically accurate movie Silence —- and the gut-wrenching telling of one man’s faith grappling with hellish suffering and a government’s demand that he deny Christ, trample on the image of Christ, to stop the torture of Christians throughout the country. I keep leaning forward. Hold my head in my hands.

What would I do, had I landed in that scrap of history? Would I trample? I feel tortured. I think I would stand unwaveringly for Christ — but would I? 

If hundreds of the faithful were being burned alive until I denied Christ — would I withstand the months of prolonged psychological torture by the governmental powers that be and refuse to trample Christ, refuse to deny Christ, refuse to step on the image of Christ? 

I can hardly stand the question — the torturing my own soul.

I sit in a hushed and gutted theatre, two of my sons leaning forward with me —- and you could hear their ticking gears of courage:

There is always a way to walk forward that doesn’t trample Christ. 

My sons and I are on the edge of our seats, watching a movie historically portraying the horrifying moral dilemma of the1600s and the torturous wrestling of Christians being called to deny their faith and I feel wrung out — nauseated.

But one of our boys turns to me, leans close and whispers to me:

There is nothing that can happen in the public square that can shake the private convictions of the heart.”

My wrestling — quietly, momentarily, stills.

Maybe — No laws of the state can make you an apostate of your beliefs.

 * * *

I have no idea how many of us stepped across their threshold.

But, I’m telling you, there were babies slung on hips of laughing mamas and worn farmers with hands stuffed into old Wranglers and nodding police officers and unflappable teachers and a string of nurses and a newly minted bank manager, and we’re a bunch of far flung neighbours circled up in that crowded living room of our Syrian refugee family like hope can actually move right in to wherever you are and set up house and you don’t have to be afraid of anything that might come leering around any corner because you’ve got people who will hold you up and a God who goes before you and you are never alone.

“I’ve just got to say…” Marlene’s voice was the first one to rise above the din, the women passing around sleepy babies and tired men comparing the edges of their days in low, nodding tones.

“Well — of everything I’ve ever done, getting to meet you, know you, support you, help you rebuild your lives has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.” She smiles over at, Zaccharias and Fatin, our Syrian newcomer family from Aleppo.

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”(Exodus 23:9)

“Thank you — for letting us just— be your friends. And this —- this is what friends do —- .” Marlene’s hand makes a sweeping gesture around the crowded room of the community of us who’s tried to help one refugee family resettle. Marlene’s found our Syrian family a doctor, taken them all in for medical check ups, dentist appointments, eye appointments.

No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler.” (Job, discussing his devotion to God) (Job 31:32)

The art of really living is giving and our theology is best expressed in the willingness of our hospitality. 

Oh dear God — How do I live with heart and hands and door open to the stranger?

My sister chokes up. “Fatin?” Fatin looks up, her little boy Mohamad on her lap.

“You’re like family to us,” my sister annunciates the words slowly, clearly, hoping Fatin’s growing English can understand. My sister leans over a stove every day with Fatin. Practices English with her every day.

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. 

You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34, Exodus 23:9)

“And I — I can’t imagine — our lives without you.”  My sister reaches out her hand to Fatin.

Fatin tucks back her white hijab, leans forward, like she’s trying to catch her heart before it breaks — but she’s too late and her heart’s streaming liquid down her face.

“She dropped to her knees, then bowed her face to the ground. “How does this happen that you should pick me out and treat me so kindly—me, a foreigner?” ” Ruth 2:10 

“Thank you. Just — Thank you.” Fatin looks up, all her love and thanks and tears streaming down, and I try to hold her gaze, but everything’s swimming a bit with pieces of my heart.  “Everything, for all the things. Thank you.”

The Farmer, who’s led us all, who’s sitting beside Zacch like he does nearly every day, he nods, him and I both brimming.

I know what he’s thinking:

“If I hadn’t been able to do anything — I wouldn’t have been able to bear it.”

If I hadn’t been able to do something to help bear other’s burdens — I wouldn’t have been able to bear living.

I look into Fatin and Zaccharias’ faces — and they bear the image of God. They have survived the bombing hell of Aleppo, they have snatched their children from an imploding, crumbling world of blood-hunting bombs and decapitations and starvation, they have fled the mouth of the ravenous monster that once was their home — and they carry the image of God. 

We will never really reflect the image of Christ to the world — unless we really see the image of God in everyone.

And who can trample on their hopes, who can trample on their children’s needs for safety, who can trample on their need to find refuge? 

Sitting there, thinking how our Fatin,  the woman sitting in front of me,  could be buried under the rubble of Aleppo, how her 3-year-old Mohamad could be bloodied and orphaned and eating grass, I had never known it quite like I did in that moment:

There are a thousand ways to deny Christ. 

There are a thousand ways to trample on the image of Christ, to walk through the world and be denying the Words of Christ, the Ways of Christ, the Welcome of Christ.

I feel as nauseated as I did there sitting watching Silence, watching officials implore believers to step on the image of God.

No forces in any era can force us to trample the image of God in the world. 

No laws of the state can make you an apostate of your beliefs.

Do I trample on Christ when I walk through the world apathetic to those fleeing war and poverty and oppression in this world? 

Little Hyiam sits on the floor at her mother’s feet, colouring — she has cousins in Aleppo who’s tummies are gnawing starved for a couple of mouthfuls of food every other day.

Do I trample on Christ when I am more about protecting my way of life — than protecting others’ very life?  

Do I trample on Christ when I walk in ways that care more about my comfort in the world, than the comfort of His image bearers being crushed in this world? 

Do I trample on Christ when my steps forward every day are more about my safety, my interests, my economic betterment — than about walking in the self-giving, self-surrendered, self-sacrificing ways of Christ? 

Is the way I’m walking every day — trampling on Christ all the time? I feel more than bit undone — head in hands.

The only way not to trample on Christ in the world — is to not trample on the marginalized, oppressed and voiceless in the world. 

If my life denies that I am about the oppressed and crushed —- my life denies the gospel and Christ. 

I feel small in a small room in a small corner of the world and a small little boy from Aleppo, reaches his hand up, slides his fingers through mine.

And a whole world of people will decide who Jesus is — by who we are. 

A whole world of hurting people will decide what they think about Jesus — by how we decide to respond to the hurting.

Little Mohamed looks up at me. And I look into his eyes —-

When we turn our backs on the fleeing — we turn our backs on Christ. 

What if —  Jesus comes in the disguise of the desperate refugee, and to refuse Him is to refuse one’s identity as a Christian? I don’t know — but the question is a kind of agony for the soul. 

“Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and not help you?” – Matt. 25:44

And I lean over and scoop up little Mohamed who’s young life has known the tortures of war and he puts his arms around my neck and now is the time to welcome Christ.

There can be more compassion in our hearts than fear in the world, and now is the time to care for Christ. 

Mohamed’s sisters gather round for hugs too and we hold on to each other and now is the time to protect Christ, advocate for Christ, risk for Christ. 

And there is the heart of God beating clearly in the silence, like a begging prayer pounding loud in my veins, my ears:

Because if you do not, if you trample Christ, reject Christ, deny Christ, then who will pray for your tortured souls?

I don’t know how long I sit there that night holding Mohamed, watching him play, watching his little feet dance — and maybe, feeling this growing hope, that there is always a way to walk forward that doesn’t trample Christ.

 

 

Sign your name now to stand with the refugee

From Ed Stezter, who holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College, his article at the Washington Post today:

“… Fear is a real emotion, and it can cause us to make decisions we wouldn’t have otherwise made. Fear leads us to fix our eyes inward instead of on the “other.” But, as I’ve written before, at the core of who we are as followers of Christ is a commitment to care for the vulnerable, the marginalized, the abused and the wanderer.

Today, millions of people have had to flee home, safety, family and livelihood due to threats of violence. In fact, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR, 1 in every 113 people in our world today has been forcibly displaced from their homes. And each one of these refugees has a name and story.

As fear overcomes us, our ability to see facts clearly also dims. We need clear facts on the issue, not alternative erroneous ones, when it comes to refugees. “Alternative facts” can have incredibly harmful consequences for people made in the image of God who are seeking refuge from violence, oppression and poverty.

And, here’s an important fact: coming to the United States as a refugee would be one of the worst ways to try and get in our country if you wanted to do harm. There is simply no evidence that our refugee program has created a significant problem of terrorism. Anyone saying anything else is making up false facts.

We are in what will be, according to former CIA Director Leon Panetta, a decades-long war with radical Islamism. However, refugees are not causing the violence. They are the ones fleeing it. Almost all recent terrorist attacks in our own nation have come from long-term residents or citizens, not new refugees.

Americans are debating these facts, but incorrect — alternative — facts lead to bad decisions….

So how should evangelicals respond to the ban on refugees?

First, we must continue to reject false facts.

Evangelicals today desperately need truth. We need to find it in the Bible, and we need to find it in the world around us. Facts are our friends, and we have to look for them. In this case, the data is out there for us to see — if fear has not blinded us to real facts.

The Cato Institute published a very thorough risk analysis on terrorism and immigration that tells us that the odds of an American citizen being killed by a refugee-turned-terrorist is 1 in 3.64 billion per year. 

New America also compiled a profile that shows us the overwhelming majority of terrorist acts in the U.S. did not come from foreign infiltrators. These are the types of statistics that we need to know before we start shutting our doors to those who need help.

Second, we need to recapture a vision of what it means that all are made in God’s image.

I’m antiabortion because the unborn are made in the image of God, as are refugees. So, I’m pro-refugee because I am antiabortion.

When we remember that all people are made in the image of God, we might just see refugees differently, an idea that aligns with the values Americans have held dear…

Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, says it this way: “The decision to restrict all entry of refugees and other immigrants … contradicts the American tradition of welcoming families who come to the United States to start their lives again in safety and dignity. The American people — most of whom can trace their own families’ stories through a similar immigrant journey in search of freedom — are a hospitable people.”

He’s right. But, it’s not just because we are Americans. It’s because we are Christians.

God’s people should be the first ones to open their arms to refugees. We should welcome them and do what Christians, in your church and mine, have been doing a long time — showing and sharing the love of Jesus with them.

Finally, we must fight for those without a voice.

I certainly understand the struggle with fear in our current climate, but I imagine that there are many people on the other side of the world who have experienced fear like you or I have not seen. And they have just been told they have nowhere to turn.

As an American citizen, I cannot change [certain Executive Orders]. But as a Christian and kingdom citizen, I cannot cheer for it, and I cannot stay silent. It is time to pray for those who are hurting, and to plead with our leaders to change course.

We are not Europe and refugees can’t walk here. We have a well-run and safe refugee resettlement program with a long history of religious group involvement. And as an evangelical and a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals, I am thankful for its statement supporting refugee resettlement.

But, I will add that I am deeply disappointed to see this safe program maligned and discounted by others who use alternative facts to say that it is dangerous in ways it is not.

As Americans who are also Christian, we often cry out, “God bless the United States!” Fear cannot lead us to the point where our only cry left is, “May God have mercy on our souls!”

This is a safe program and one that evangelicals like me say….  “Give [us] your … huddled masses, yearning to be free.”

Alternative facts must not lead us to bad choices that hurt the most vulnerable — that’s not the way of Jesus and not in line with actual facts.” — to read Ed Stetzer’s complete article at The Washington Post  

Related: ““Of all the categories of persons entering the U.S., these refugees are the single most heavily screened and vetted,” explains Jana Mason, a senior adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…. Please consider reading further the facts of how the Syrian Refugee Screening Process Works

From Here: How to ask the one question to make your life bearable

Our family’s story of welcoming in and adopting a Syrian refugee family

Sign your name now to stand with the refugee 

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