Wednesday, September 23, 2015

America, The Land of the Free

One of the things that becomes so obvious when living overseas is the incredible amount of freedom we have in the US.  Of course America is famous for it and as Americans we know it, but I don’t think I ever really appreciated what it means to hold an American passport until we’d lived here a while.  We can travel to almost any country at any time without permission from anyone.  We can work where we choose, marry who we like, and be free to practice our own religion.  It’s something much of the world dreams of.  

We are so thankful to be from the Land of the Free and are proud of our heritage.  We are grateful to the many men and women who have given their lives for our freedom and the freedom of others.   With all this renewed appreciation and different perspective I write today with a heavy heart over some things I’ve been consistently seeing from our amazing country.

Before I moved to this country, that is 99.9% Muslim, I had a few Muslim friends but wasn’t sure what to expect.  After living here some of my experiences are: hundreds of people asking me where I’m from and immediately saying , “Welcome!”, having strangers take me by the hand and help me find the place I’m looking for, having neighbors and new friends bring food to my house, them also having my whole family over for a meal and being given their best, and having them text me and call me when terrorists strike to make sure I’m okay.  After all this I perceive Muslims to be some of the most caring, giving and hospitable people on earth.    I CAN acknowledge that and STILL hold fast to the truth that Jesus is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6).  I can have Muslims in my home, call some of them my closest friends and STILL (along with my Muslim friends) be heartbroken over ISIS and demand that the world leaders do more to stop them.  

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, God is bringing refugees by the thousands to your state and your city who have NEVER heard the good news of Jesus Christ.  They have never heard, not because they haven’t wanted to, but because they haven’t had access to do so.  Many of them have NEVER met a Christian.  When they arrive in America what will they think of our God?  Will they know that He is loving and merciful and wants to have them as His children?  Or will they see the glances and watch the protests of their religious liberties and want nothing to do with people who follow Jesus?  

They are likely accustomed to governments being afraid of other religions.  In this country, a follower of Jesus is highly likely to experience persecution.  Maybe from family, friends, employers, or even the government.  The difference is they have a right to be afraid of churches starting here.  Because the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will penetrate lives and change hearts if that happens.  But Christian, what do we have to fear if a mosque opens in your neighborhood?  Have we lost faith in the power of our God?  Because us rejecting their freedom to practice their faith is the same mentality that I see here from their government.  But despite being thrown in jail, beaten, kicked out of their homes, losing their jobs and being shamed, believers are standing firm and God’s Word is going out in this country.  The Holy Spirit will not be stopped by a government demanding people to follow the law.  Do you think in America, if a few Mosques open, that the Word of God will cease to go out?  Do you think that the Holy Spirit will cease to move?  If it does it will not be because of a mosque.  It will be because of the believers who refuse to go and tell.  

Friends, I want to challenge you.  If you see a foreigner ask them where they’re from and how long they’ve been there.  Welcome them to America.  Invite and host them for dinner.  Go to their house when they invite you.  Show them who Jesus is.  It will not be easy at first and it will be awkward at times.  If you have small kids they’ll give them each their own can of soda and more candy than they’ve had all year.   But your kids being up all night is worth them hearing about the grace given to them by what Jesus did for them on the cross.  It is worth them having eternity in heaven with the Father.  

One of my best friends here is a national and lived in the U.S. for a couple of years before returning to her home country.  She lived in a mid-sized city with hundreds of Christian churches (around 100 of them SBC) and NEVER ONCE got invited to someones home.  Despite asking many people (neighbors, families at her kids school) into her home no one ever accepted.  She lived in a city with around 100 SBC churches, dozens more Christian churches and NEVER heard the gospel.  I came home and cried when she told me this, heartbroken.

Would you consider praying and asking God how you can show Muslims in your city the love of Christ?  God might not be calling you across the world but He may be calling you to drive 20 minutes to another part of town.  Would you be their friend and welcome them to their new home?  Don’t let your neighbor go back to their home country without being loved by a Christian and hearing the Gospel.  It may be their only chance.

If we love only those who love us, if we only greet our brother, we are no better than unbelievers (Matthew 5:46-47).  But what do we say to the fact that unbelievers ARE loving others and ARE greeting the foreigner.  Are we whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones or are we full of the love of the Holy Spirit?  

As I type this I can hear all the sheep at the houses surrounding ours “baaing”.  Tomorrow is the big holiday here where each family slaughters a sheep in remembrance of God giving Abraham a sheep in the place of his son.  If you see a Muslim today or tomorrow would you wish them a happy holiday?  You can even say “Eidick Mabrook” to them.  Maybe you’ll have the chance to tell them that this story that they celebrate is a beautiful picture of the Lamb that was slain for us (Isaiah 53).  The Son that WAS sacrificed for our sins so we no longer have to sacrifice sheep (John 1:29).  

We are praying for you as you wrestle with how God will use you to love your neighbors and love those that God is bringing into your city.  And we CAN’T WAIT to hear the stories that come from you stepping out.  

Here's a link from the ERLC that expresses similar thoughts in a much more eloquent way: 

4 Things Christians Say When They Deny Religious Liberty to Others