It’s no overstatement to say that 2020 has been a difficult year. Of course, the major story has been the global pandemic. But there have been other stories as well. The protests and the riots in the US seemed to tear at the fabric of our neighbours. The US presidential election saw Donald Trump lose the election, amidst cries of voter fraud as well as other conspiracy theories. The good news about vaccines has also given rise to more conspiracy theories. All in all, it has been a remarkable year.
Christians sometimes wonder whether we are losing influence. Alarmist voices ring out, telling of dark days ahead. Some have argued that we need to fight harder to get our people into positions of power. We also need to do more to
I wish to respond by telling a story. I was listening to BBC radio the other day and was transfixed by an interview, that filled me with hope. The subject of the interview was a Pakistani Christian man. He had been arrested and convicted for murder. Even though he was miles away at the time of the murder, and even though he did not know the victim nor any of the details surrounding that crime, and even though no witnesses were produced, he was convicted. By the grace of God, he was not given a death sentence, but life in prison.
The man’s story was fascinating. He was engaged to be married, and wrote his fiancée, breaking off their engagement. They had no future. Because he was a Christian, he was poorly treated in prison. His extended family, because of the stigma of having a family member in prison convicted of murder, rarely came to visit. He was alone. But he did not lose hope.
While in prison, he decided to encourage his fellow Christian prisoners. He was able to receive permission to celebrate Christmas in the prison. He invited Muslim inmates to the Christmas celebration as well. One of the Muslims, who had received slices of a Christmas cake remarked, “if we exchanged cakes rather than bombs, our troubles would end.” Indeed. In time, the Muslims invited the Christians to come to their celebrations. They came.
After a while, he received permission to organize a Christian church in the prison. He also became involved in an educational program, where he became a teacher in the prison. He participated in a program, to help his prisoners with literacy. He introduced them to reading. He learned more about prisoner rights. He volunteered to visit the prisoners on death row, reading to them, and bringing them comfort. He would often accompany them to their executions, praying with them, and encouraging them to the end. He worked with the prison staff to bring some degree of betterment to the lives of those whose lives seemed hopeless. It was an overwhelming story.
It takes too long to tell how he was released from prison. And then, to his amazement, he found that his fiancée had waited for him – for well over 10 years. The married.
What impacted me most, is that since his release from prison, the Christian Pakistani man has joined an organization bringing justice to accused people who cannot afford a lawyer. He has also spent countless hours doing the work you might expect a police officer to do. Interview witnesses. And he has provided free legal counsel to many.
What also impressed me, was that this wonderful story, which was truly to the glory of Christ, was told on the BBC! A liberal, secular news media organization thought this story simply had to be told. It was clear that the interviewer was transfixed by the account. It was a spellbinding narrative of faith and hope.
As I listened, it became clear to me that the non-Christian world is not impressed when we advocate for a certain party to be in power in the next election. But the non-Christian world is impressed when Christians devote their lives to serve others in the name of Christ. They are impressed when they see genuine love expressed in sacrifice. They are also impressed when they see hope and an absence of bitterness in the face of suffering. They are impressed because they never thought these things were possible. Yet the non-Christian world knows these things are what this world needs the most.
It occurs to me, that much of what has made the news (even in Christian circles) is the political struggles for supremacy. But Christians have sometimes forgotten that these are not the weapons of our warfare. Learning to act like Jesus transforms our culture. Seeking power over others only brings more warfare. Proving them wrong, leads to them proving us wrong. But faith, hope and love transform the world.
My prayer for the coming year is that Christians return to our roots. Let’s stop fighting with our enemies. Let’s start loving them as Christ has shown us.
Happy new year!