Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Islam, Christianity, and Freedom

The latest crises in the middle east has more than a few folks up at arms. The fear that an Islamic fundamentialist regime will replace the most recent, and more moderate displaced regime is very real. We observe the goings-on and wonder what this means to the region, to Israel, to freedom and democracy, to Christian missionary work, and even to those of us living in the West. Well, to be honest, I have no earthly idea what this means to any of those mentioned above. I am tempted to be anxious just as much as the next freedom-loving person. I am tempted to worry about how this could hinder the gospel in that part of the world. I am tempted toward anxiety around how this may impact the nation of Israel. I am sure many share my concern and uncertainty. However, while I am tempted to fear and worry, by grace I resist these temptations. I know that my God is in complete control of all of the events around to globe to include this one. He not only knows what is going on in the middle east, he is the primary cause. Now does this view mean I am fatalistic when it comes to how Christians should respond to geo-political events around the world? Not at all. I think we have a responsibility to address these issues and react to them in a way that reflects the teaching of Scripture and subsequently promotes the health and well-being of Christianity all around the world. But that answer merely begs the question, what does that reaction or address look like?

We have not been given the charge to politicize Christianity. We have been given the charge to make ardent students, disciples from all nations of the earth. I am convinced that if we busy ourselves with this cardinal concern of Christianity, many of these other issues will take care of themselves. They will either be directly impacted by such disciple-making activities or we will be so distracted by our work in that area that these things will be of little concern to us. Either way, the anxiety will take care of itself. So why do we work outselves up into a frenzy over these issues? There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is our temptation toward autonomy even in ruling our own roost. We are a voice crying in the wilderness! Nothing more and nothing less. That being said, let us not take up the sword, politically or otherwise and let us not shut up our voice at the other extreme. What I mean is that God is working His plan in this world and we should acknowledge this, trust it, and concern ourselves with His revealed will for us and let the chips fall where they may. We make a serious mistake when we think that part of God's agenda for the church is the preservation of individual and religious freedom in the West. Where is this found in Scripture? Am I arguing that we should not influence in that direction? Of course not. I don't want to lose my freedom any more than the next person. But I am not willing to make that item one of my top agenda items in the Kingdom. I am concerned with obedience to God's word, with discipleship, with worship, with teaching Scripture, with spiritual growth, with shining the light of the gospel with our lives as well as our mouths. I am concerned that the world see Christian love for all it is so that God is honored and glorified in all the earth. The trouble is that if we spend all our time on these spiritual issues, we have little time to spare for the political ones. And so we have to choose. Which one is more important? I choose the latter and contend that if we focus our time and attention on spiritual matters, there is no greater influence that we can have on the political ones than that.

What do I say about Egypt? I pray for that country and the people there. I pray for the region and for peace. I pray for the spread of the gospel in that area of the world. I condemn oppression of any kind because God condemns it. But my focus is on obeying God's word and doing all I can to impact the world for Christ, not for individual freedom. If I do the former, then hopefully the latter will be a natural by-product of the former so long as God has willed it to be. Let us not get the cart before the horse. Focus on the spiritual for it is here that we have the greatest influence of all. A spiritual focus has the greatest chance of any other method to influcence the political events and happenings around the world and that includes Egypt, Israel, Iran, England, the United States, Germany, and wherever else you may want to list.

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