[For definitions of anarchy, antichrists and awakening, please browse through Part 1]
Having given definitions and examples of anarchy in Africa, antichrists and awakening, and having made one practical observation in the light thereof, let me make a few more…
- Over a life-time I have come to the conclusion that our arch-enemy always over-reaches himself, so ego-centric and greedy is he. The best example of this is the cross, where satan imagined he had conquered when all the time God had conquered in the greatest conquest of all ages. I ask: is it not possible that the extremism and militance of ISIS ‘et al’ may force moderate Muslims to soften their stance toward other world religions and the Christian faith? E.g. in chatting with believers who regularly visit Iran, I have been told of a wave of younger people (especially) who have become disillusioned with Islam and turned to Christ for salvation. There is a fast-growing underground house church movement wherein these new believers worship and commune. Another example, from my own country: just a few days ago a fifteen-year-old Muslim girl, groomed by ISIS on social media, managed to secretly board a plane in Cape Town ‘to join ISIS.’ This caused outrage, even among Muslims, leading to much press coverage, radio debates, etc. In fact just yesterday the SA Muslim Judicial Council resolved to curb the influence of ISIS and expressed serious concern about the exploitation of Muslim youth. [In lighter vein, recently two believers and I visited a Muslim spice shop that keeps 36 litre pots used in our township soup kitchens. I don’t know if we ‘looked like Christians’ but the veiled women seemed over-anxious to assure us that they mixed spices for church groups right across the city and added, ”After all, we are all one!” As we made our way out of the shop they ran after us with a packet of delicious, freshly-made samoosas as if to emphasise the point – God bless them!]
- While it would be totally inappropriate of me as one not facing physical persecution or possible martyrdom somewhere in Africa to sermonise about the necessity of compassion toward our persecutors, it would be amiss not to underline, from the Scriptures, the importance of demonstrating love (‘agape’) toward our enemies. Coming back to 1 John, the apostle, having warned the churches of Asia Minor not to succumb to false prophets, points his readers to God’s great love for us in Christ and the need to love our fellow-believers and indeed all people (4:7ff). It was surely the demonstration of this ‘practical observable love’ (Francis Schaeffer) that brought many to faith in Christ in the 1st and succeeding centuries.
- Knowing myself, I would probably not easily be found in the front-line when it comes to persecution and martyrdom! Those early Church believers knew what it might cost them in Roman-occupied Palestine – violence and uprisings were common and threats to the state were ruthlessly put down. Many at first thought that Jesus had come to overthrow the oppressor, only to find their Messiah himself crucified. Their lesser dreams had to make way for the risky way of the cross. In a wonderful Passion meditation, Canon Patrick Augustine, who has spent decades with persecuted believers in places such as Pakistan, calls us to ‘the Cruciform Life.’ For believers, the cross is not optional, isn’t a difficult relative, some trial or sickness or disability.“‘The cross is a choice. We take up our cross when we walk in Christ’s steps and embrace his life [personal note: on the basis of Rom. 6!], which means extending ourselves in difficult circumstances for the sake of the gospel. At times, that may mean lifting high the cross of Christ in the public square. At other times, it may mean embracing weakness instead of power.’ Canon Augustine quotes a Pakistani believer, “the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have told us to leave or be killed. Instead we wash their wounds and provide them tender care in our hospitals when they are injured. We are not leaving. We are continuing to serve, to carry his cross, and to follow Jesus by loving those who hate us.” ‘Wow!’
- We all can begin somewhere, in the smallest of ways, through the indwelling Christ. Some years ago, through a series of circumstances, God brought a young Muslim man into our family circle. We entertained him in our home, he cooked breyani for us, etc. About three years ago he invited us for a holiday in a Muslim B&B in his town, and we got to love the Muslim staff over those few days. On our departure, while we were dishing out hugs and before thinking it through, I asked if I could pray God’s blessing on all of us – no one objected (perhaps they were so taken by surprise) and so there on the road-side we asked the living God to bless us all in his grace. The young man has since married and they have a lovely little girl – whenever we pass by, we are showered with respect, love and hospitality. We certainly haven’t ‘got it all together,’ but let us always act with humility and kindness toward those who differ from us. [Last year my wife and I toured Israel, and were visibly reminded of the cruel Crusader invasions of the Holy Land ‘in the name of the Cross.’ We think of the apostle Paul, a deeply religious person who viciously persecuted Christians ‘in the name of God’ – we all know how the story ended]
- Let’s remember to consistently intercede for God’s people in Africa, indeed across the globe. A few years ago I wrote a simple little blog, ‘Four Prayers for Africa.’ It’s popularity has amazed me to this day – some are praying those prayers on a regular basis. Maybe you would find it helpful too. Two days ago I wrote to a fellow-blogger in Kenya, Patrick Maina (patrickmaina2), to assure him of our prayers for his nation in these days, and enquire about his own feelings in the face of the Garissa University tragedy. I quote his response, ‘We need the prayers of the saints both as a country and as the church here, that we’d keep the faith amidst the happenings and that the hand of evil would be stayed. Concerning my feelings, the predominant ones are that of sadness, and helplessness.’ He writes further of ‘unanswered questions in his conversations with the Lord.’ He thanks us for our concern and urges us to keep praying!
PS, since early yesterday morning, I have felt particularly burdened about reaching our millions of young people here in SA and Africa. I have often mentioned that approx. 80% of our world is poor and young. The traditional approach of our traditional churches (‘be seen but not heard,’ or, ‘we have to entertain to evangelise’) no longer works (at least not deeply) – most aren’t ‘attending church’ anyway. I believe we need to build authentic and unconditional relationships with young people wherever we can, more by what we are than by what we say. They must feel free to share any question with us. Community is key. We need to really ‘hear’ them, and by our lifestyle and love point them to Jesus.