24 Nov Knock at The Door
A pregnant woman was cut into pieces because she refused to deny her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This happened in 2008 during the persecution of Christians in Kandhamal and other places in Odisha. When we heard this news during the Study Centre programme in Kotagiri, I could not sleep for a few nights.
Who or what could have given this woman the courage and strength not to deny the Lord? The teaching and training of her parents, her Sunday School teachings, her own personal and intimate walk with the Lord or a Christian fellowship? Even with all these encouragements many have failed the Lord.
The meaning of the cross of Christ and bearing the cross as a disciple is not properly taught in some churches nor is the term properly understood by many. We take the word ‘cross’ very lightly. Any difficulty one faces in life is a cross to that person. Any difficult room mate, a non cooperative colleague or a difficult in-law could be a cross to some persons. For a mother, a naughty and in disciplined youngest son could be a cross in her old age!
Bearing the cross really means suffering for the sake of Christ Jesus for doing the right thing in the college/university campus (not copying, not giving proxy attendance, etc), in the work spot (integrity, being punctual etc) and in society (saying no to bribes, fraudulent dealings etc). Everyone doing these things is a norm. When believers do not do these things, they will be ridiculed, looked down upon, rejected and even insulted and in some cases the promotion could be denied. This is a kind of persecution we suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name (Mt 5.11). Many of our students and graduates have honoured the Lord in small and big matters and have also paid the price for their integrity and faithfulness. But they have rejoiced believing that, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil 1.29)
We live in a materialistic, competitive and instant world. We hear parents talk about their children’s achievements in studies, sports and other extra curricular activities. We also sense a competitive spirit even among mothers of LKG children. Nothing is wrong in encouraging our children. But we need to be careful as to how and with what we are feeding the ego of our children.
Very few parents, in general talk with joy and pride of their children’s achievements in their Sunday School, Bible Quizzes, Memory verse and singing competition and Christian dramatics. How are we laying the foundation for their Christian nurture, in addition to what they receive from their Sunday School/Youth group?
Many stalwarts in Christian life look back to their childhood days when stories of heroes of faith from the Bible and church history were told to them during Family Prayer time and other times. These stories had strengthened their faith and also reading of some books encouraged them to be brave and true witnesses for the Lord.
We agree that today families in general have limited time for Family prayers and they want the time to be meaningful for younger generation. But there are some, may be many families where the Family prayer time is fixed rather dictated by the children depending on the TV programmes. No one has time for long explanations or longer prayers! A mother once told me with tears that on a particular day of a TV programme, only the father or mother (whoever says the shortest prayer normally!) should pray.
Where are we heading to? Persecution may knock at our door anytime. Those who live in South India, may be complacent whenever they hear about anti-conversion bill. They think that Ghar Vapsi programmes and attacks on Christians, Churches and Christian institutions, are happening in far away places. I wonder how many even pray for Christians going through suffering in other parts of our country as though they are our own kith and kin.
Regardless of how sheltered our experience has been as children or what training we received at home or at Sunday School, there comes a time when we are thrust into the hostile world. We are confronted in our university, on the job or in society with a lifestyle and standards radically different from what is taught in the Bible. At every turn we have to make difficult decision. The challenge is whether we will obey God at any cost or whether we will become part of the surrounding culture.
Living in our comfort zone, we cannot even imagine what people go through during persecution. Little did we realise that people in Odhisa went through literally what is portrayed in Heb 11.36-38 – “… suffered imprisonment, stoned, sawn into two, killed, … afflicted … ill-treated … wandering about in deserts and mountains and in dens and caves …”
The life of Daniel gives us practical and personal help in our struggles. He was a man who rose to a position of great power and prestige in the world system. But he never compromised on essential biblical principles. He showed us how to live a life of spiritual integrity in the pressure of a secular world.
There are times when we find it hard to be a witness. We need each other. Daniel had his friends – a support group. We need EU and EGF fellowships, church home groups, Christian groups in work places, close friends and mentors to stand with us in our struggles and keep our plough making straight furrows.
My generation will be gone in a few years. I am concerned for our younger generations, who have many years to go, concerned for the quality of their own Christian faith and for their responsibilities to nurture, train and prepare their next generation “to endure till the end”.
Here is a call and challenge to Christian parents, Staff workers, graduates and senior students to wake up from our complacency, get involved in a serious and systematic nurturing/mentoring/discipling our younger generation through the systematic teaching of the Word and by personal examples, so that they would genuinely count the cost of following Christ on Jesus’ terms till the end (Lk 14.26-35).
Field Partner of UESI based at Chennai