Sharing Jesus, Shining Like Stars
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
It is always a pleasure to be at St. Mark.
I was driving back from St. Louis, MO, when I received the news of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
I was coming back after I did an interview on Islam with the Lutheran Hour Ministries…How fitting hah.…But in a sad way…In addition, I had to re-write big chunks of my sermon in the car, while my helper drove to Chicagoland.
What I am going to say may not be popular in the Church.
A knee-jerk reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks is not Christian. We need a Spirit-filled reaction.
Let me start from home; Chicago!
On Friday, a Middle East political analyst was asked about the suicide bombing in Lebanon that killed 43 people and wounded 200. You know what he said! This is not a chaotic round of killing, it is part of the tit-for-tat bombings and killings going on between ISIS, which is Sunni, and Hizbollah, a Shiite terrorist group supported by Iran, for about the last two years. Then he said, “It is like the gang wars in Chicago.”
That statement reminded me of an incident. Some years ago, when I moved to Chicago from Michigan, I saw a black man stranded on a highway. His car was on the shoulder of the road, he had a gas can in his hand. I pulled over, and gave him a ride to a gas station, and back to his car. On the way, I introduced myself, and was witnessing to him, sharing my story, and how God called me to faith from a civil war, after my brother was killed by a Christian militia in Lebanon, and how the words of Jesus about loving our enemies were instrumental in calling me to faith…Could you imagine what he said: “Nothing will change for you… We have a civil war going on right here in Chicago.” This maybe an exaggeration…but, last month, a 3-year old black kid was shot in the head in Chicago, execution style.
Black lives matter… Hispanic lives matter… French lives matter… American lives matter… Muslim lives matter.
They are all created in the image of God… whether we favor westerners or not.
The tragedy in Paris highlights our selective grief and selective outrage.
Terrorists kill Muslims everyday more than all the French victims that were murdered on Friday.
Muslims, both Sunni and Shiites, are targeted by radical Muslims more than Westerners.
It is estimated that there are 12 million Syrian refugees out of 23 millions, and many million Iraqi refugees are scattered around the world. Imagine if more than half of the American people become refugees.
We should not take out anger on refugees. The immigrants streaming across Europe are trying to escape the radicals, they are not the enemy. The Paris attacks certainly remind us of the importance of security in this immigration crisis, and terrorists may very well try to infiltrate such refugees. But almost all of these people are just trying to live and protect their families—as you and I would do. If we start placing blame, and drawing quick conclusions from that, then we are saying that innocent people should have been denied protection. This is not ok. The gospel frees from fear and makes us people of compassion. We need to walk by faith, not by sight. Hate comes out of sinful flesh. Love comes from the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to love God and love our neighbor. All the Mosaic Law and the Prophets hinge on these two commandment.
The Bible tells us to welcome the stranger among us.
When Jesus comes in His glory, he will reward those who welcomed the stranger, and say I was a stranger and you welcomed me. After all, baby Jesus and His family were refugees in Egypt.
I am not talking about politics here, but morals. You would notice that what I would say would get Americans on both sides of the isle.
We, in the West, have made friends with dictators and corrupt Islamic leaders who oppress their people, like the Saudi family. We are bed fellows with the Saudis that pedal Radical Islam all over the world.
We have compromised with dictators who gassed their people like Saddam Hussein and Assad of Syria. If you do not believe me, you could find footage that shows Donald Rumsfield received by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. Imagine that the State Department once called Assad of Syria a reformer.
We are compromising on human rights when we receive a Chinese dictator in the White House and honor him, while his government throws Christians in jail and torture them.
We are supporting Radical Shiite governments and militias in Iraq, and striking deals with enemies of the American people, like the Iranian regime.
We are applying double standards when dealing with almost every issue.
We have lost the moral high ground.
I am not calling on America to be the policeman of the world, but the leader of the world.
Turning a blind eye to those dictators I mentioned is a blunder like that when the Free World turned a blind eye to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. I am not vindicating the terrorists, and condoning terrorism here. But I am saying that Islamic terrorism is a symptom of deep-rooted malady in the Middle East, and our lame policy towards that region.
I say it again, I am not talking politics here at all…but I am talking about the survival of the Free World. This is an existential issue. Empires collapse, when they lose their morals.
Today, I believe we need to find a new way of managing our nation, our lives, and our relationships with others; whether they are friends or foes. From now on, wishy-washy solutions won’t work. Sweeping the dust under the carpet won’t work anymore.
But as Followers of Christ we have a burden…
Today, we need another Martin Luther…
Today, we need another Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
We need Christians who stand up for Jesus against all odds, and never compromise on the Truth.
It is our vocation, as Christians, to defend our country against all enemies. A Christian soldier, or a security officer, is serving God like a pastor does, but outside the walls of the Church.
Maybe some of us do not know that Martin Luther, in 1529, was calling upon the Church to take her responsibility in defending Christendom against the Turks, which was another name for Muslim Ottomans who conquered most of East Europe and were trying to storm the gates of Vienna. But at the same time Luther was writing on how to reach those Turks with the Gospel, and discussing the best way of doing it. Luther translated parts of the Quran, the book of Islam, to German, in order to equip the Church, so that Christians would understand Islam more, and would be able to witness better, if possible.
A knee-jerk reaction to terrorist attacks does not work. We need a Spirit-filled reaction.
As Christians, we have to love our enemies.
We need Christians who shine like stars, so that men would see their good deeds and glorify their Father in Heaven.
We need Christians who would do this with humility, not with self-righteousness.
What a powerful argument for God, if we confound the expectations of enemies, and come to meet them, not with a sword but with a towel and basin.
Looking back at Daniel 12:2-3 says this, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
The verse before this talks about eternal issues. “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame….”
That’s why it’s so important to share Christ with our neighbors. There are two eternal destinations: everlasting life, and everlasting shame.
You and I can have a vital role in which destination it will be for the people we know. If we share with them the source of righteousness, we’ll shine like the stars forever and ever. People you influence for Christ will be the lasting legacy of your life.
Today, if you are excited about what God is doing, and come to the Bible Study hour, you may hear the testimony of an Iranian lady, a new sister in Christ. Sama was looking for God and for peace in Islam, but she could not find it there. A friend of the family who is Armenian Christian invited her to church. Sama says in her testimony: “When I went to church for the first time, I discovered that God in Christianity is kind and merciful. He died on a cross to save his people. Christians call Him their Savior. When they pray, they address God as Father. Christians have a close relationship with God. God is the Father that teaches us how to be kind, compassionate, and friends with one another.” Sama was baptized three months ago.
Note her words: “God is the Father that teaches us how to be kind.”
Sama is here today, in God’s Kingdom, because a friend shared Christ with her. I am here today, because a retired Lutheran pastor from Northern Minnesota gave me a business card in a bank building, in an elevator, in Lebanon. On Wednesday, suicide bombers hit there… Pastor Lutz risked his life to go there…God honored that and watered the seed he planted…and those seed gave fruits..We have baptized 30 people at Salam..so far.
Nobody will find peace in the Middle East. It is impossible. But through the Prince of Peace it is possible.
We have a ministry of reconciliation.
Making disciples is our commission in this world.
The problem is that we get distracted from the eternal, don’t we? We spend most of our time and our energy on earthly stuff. We are, in this, like someone trying to leave lasting footprints on a sandy beach.
But the tide will one day come along and erase all those footprints we left in the sand. Someone else will get your position, they’ll get your money, and they’ll get your house. There’s a verse of poetry that puts it in a very eloquent way:
“Only one life, ’twill soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Daniel affirms that the lasting thing you can do with your life is sharing the source of eternal life with your neighbors.
How are you doing on witnessing for Christ?
Could it be that you’ve misplaced your priorities? Are most of the marks of your life in the sand or in the cement of eternity?
You may not have made many tracks in earth’s sand… but marks you have made in cement for Christ/ will be there for a billion years/ and more – people who are in heaven BECAUSE of you!
Witnessing may need guts, but loving your enemies needs more than guts. It needs trust in Christ.
If we are in Christ, the Rock, our supposed weakness is infinitely stronger than the strength of Jesus enemies. Jesus gained the ultimate victory for us on the cross. We need to believe in what Jesus says: “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church. Amen