Recently, I made a new friend.
He is an Iranian missionary serving in Thailand together with his family. His mission agency focuses on reaching people in the Middle East. He shared that based on informal first hand reports from the ground, there have been large numbers of people coming to Christ in the Middle East in recent years. He compared it with the exponential growth that took place in China when missionaries were forced to leave China in the 1950s. Due to persecution and suffering, the church is growing in the Middle East similar to how it had grown in China.
In our conversation he said that one of the reasons for people in the Middle East coming to Christ is the radical way believers are living out their faith there.
In the last couple of years, Coptic Christians in Egypt have been severely persecuted due to anti-Christian violence in the country. One month in 2013, 45 churches and buildings were burned to the ground. In January 2018, 3 Coptic Christians were shot dead because they were Christians.
In the midst of the great fear and uncertainty, these Coptic Christians have chosen to respond in the most unthinkable way – forgiving their perpetrators.
One of the largest Coptic Church in Egypt hung a huge banner that said “We Forgive You”, after perpetrators burnt down churches and murdered Christians. Many other Christians also hung “forgiveness banners” outside their houses.
This has led many observing non-believers to be confused, surprised and moved, and many were curious enough to find answers at the church and eventually make the difficult decision to follow Christ.
Living contrary to worldly values is something that shouldn’t be strange for the believer. Jesus taught His followers to be peculiar people right from the beginning. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ out-of-this-world teachings included loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you and lending without expecting anything in return (Luke 6:27-36). This is so that people could see the way believers lived, marvel, and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
In Singapore, we do not face the kind of persecution our brothers and sisters in the Middle East face. However, we do have to make the choice to live out a faith that may puzzle the people around us daily. Do we forgive radically? Love unconditionally? Do we dare to live for Christ at the expense of looking like fools to the world?
What does it look like to live radically for Christ in your context? What decisions do you have to make today?
Sister Cherlyn Oh