We have it so good. I mean, we all have troubles and some massive difficulties, but we are at least in a safe country, free to practice our faith. As I sent my kids off to school on the school bus, I thanked God that I didn’t have to worry about them being shot or stepping on a landmine.
And then I was ashamed.
Is the only time I remember those in imminent and very real danger when I thank God for not being them?
The war in Syria is still happening. The cities are in rubble. The Taliban are in control of Afghanistan and conditions are terrible. Women are oppressed and beaten, anyone (male or female) opposing the Taliban are singled out for persecution, Christians are in exceptional danger, young girls are taken from their families and given to soldiers. Fighting in Yemen, which has been occurring for that last 8 years, has intensified.
And that’s just in the Middle East.
Of course we humans are self-preserving creatures. We will look away from things that are difficult and painful. Besides, with the amount of information we get, we can get compassion fatigue. There are too many things to care about. Too many things to try and fix. It’s overwhelming. We become immobilized by the enormity of it.
We are also shaped by the media – and as soon as one war in one news cycle is replaced by another disaster, it goes out of our view and memory.
But we need to look. And we need to remember. As Christians, we are to love our God and our neighbor with all our heart and mind and strength. We are called to love mercy and justice. What God speaks through Micah, Jesus re-asserts:
And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
You have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Matthew 23:23)
We need to activate our faith and look to our brothers and sisters in danger to support them, but also to activate our faith in the first place. That sounds odd, I know. We think that we can help them in their need. And that is true, we can. But many of these people have a faith that is alive and electric, precisely because they are leaning so completely on God in their danger. Their faith is awake and alive.
A. J. Swoboda writes that, when on exchange to a Muslim African country, he had wanted to visit the underground church in the city they were at. They “shared one Bible and met secretly under cover of night. With their half broken guitar, they sang simple songs to Jesus and loved one another, giving their lives for the gospel.” (After Doubt, p54). But the church didn’t want to meet Swoboda’s group. They didn’t want the group’s western sleepy consumerist faith to rub off on the church.
Thankfully, we don’t have to activate our faith by putting ourselves in a war zone and placing our families in danger. But there are some things we can do, that are not overwhelming:
- Look. We have to look and see people in their broken perilous context. God’s heart breaks for them and so we have to look to care for the things that break God’s heart;
- Pray. Prayer is the first stop – for ourselves so we can put before God the feelings that looking at these situations generate. We can’t help if we get overwhelmed, so we need to put things before God. And of course, be praying for people – for their deliverance, safety, health and healing;
- Keep looking. We need to work hard to overcome the news cycles of the media. We need to keep looking and making ourselves aware of what is going on.
- Learn. We need to find ways to monitor what is happening in these places. Open Doors’ World Watch List is a good place to start. It gives information on where Christians are at most danger but without overwhelming detail that could crush and immobilize us. AnglicanAid is also a good place to get information. AnglicanAid fund specific projects in key areas and so we can learn what is happening but through the lens of positive and active projects.
- Read. One of the best books I have read in this areas is International Justice Mission founder Gary Haugen’s book Good News About Injustice. It is powerful, Bible based and hopeful.
- Community. It is great to think, speak and pray about these things in community. There are some great Bible study materials out there including God of Justice and The Faith Effect.
- Follow. Social media is handy for following what is happening in the world. There are some great charities that post updates about what is happening in key areas. Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, AnglicanAid, Compassion, Destiny Rescue, International Justice Mission, World Vision, A21 and so many more organizations that you can follow to get regular information.
- Give. Giving is probably the least active – it is so necessary but you can set and forget a direct debit and so it doesn’t help with an activated faith. Still, it is so needed and any of the organizations (and so many more!) are worthy of supporting financially.
- Go. Where it is appropriate and safe, you could actually take a trip. Open Doors and Compassion both organise safe trips to experience faith in hard places.
- Time. Many organizations need us to be generating awareness, activity and funds within our context. We can do so many things including morning teas, speaking events, prayer events and so much more.
- Teach. Within limits (ie without scaring them to death or giving them nightares!) we can be teaching our kids about other kids in the world who are not just less fortunate but danger on a daily basis. Teach them to see, and to care, and to pray. Talk about it with them, teach them at youth groups. Get them involved in raising money and writing to sponsor kids.
- Pray again! Throughout the Bible we are told to be persistent in prayer. In Isaiah 62:7, the believers are even told to tirelessly pester God. Thats not because God doesn’t hear – its because persistent prayer is a sign of our humility and faithfulness. It is a sign that we haven’t forgotten those people and those places. It is a sign that we care enough about them to tirelessly pester God on their behalf. Our persistent prayers are part of God’s plans – they are not an add-on.
God is so good to us in our country. We are not in fear of persecution and imprisonment. We are not facing the loss of our houses to bombings, or the loss of our children to armies. God has blessed us beyond measure. Which means that while we are active Christians, we can be very sleepy ones. We need to look. We need to feel the feelings that looking – and truly seeing – generates. Pain, hurt, bewilderment, frustration, helplessness – and then we need to channel those emotions into a faith that is truly activated.
We don’t need to leave our lives and become full time activists and lobbyists. In among our normal lives though, we can be tenacious in our approach to things that we know breaks the heart of our God. There are so many things that we can do to wake up and stay awake.