Monday, April 20, 2015

Living in a Hostile Climate

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:43-48
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: April 21st, 2015.

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The climate against Christianity is increasingly hostile. From persecutions of Christians in the Middle East by ISIS to religious extremism in Malaysia, life is getting very complicated and dangerous for people of the Cross. Just today, I read about Ethiopian believers being executed in cold blood by the Islamic radicals. The killers even gloated about the killings as something that they do in the name of Allah. The violence that they have meted out is atrocious. The Christians were killed simply because they refused to embrace Islam or pay a heavy tax to retain their faith. The ones who died are the martyrs of today. They died for their faith.

BEFORE: Some Muslims protest the cross symbol
AFTER: No more cross outside the Church
Over in Malaysia, a Church in KL was forced to removed their cross from their building because some Muslims felt "uncomfortable" about the cross in their neighbourhood. I am appalled at their intolerance of other faiths, and disrespectful of the feelings of Christians, who are also fellow Malaysians. Just like Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians need to accept the place of mosques and daily prayers uttered over loudspeakers, it is important for Muslims to accept the faith and religious beliefs of other religions. Just because they do not believe in the Cross of Jesus Christ does not merit the forced removal of cross symbols of Church buildings. I can understand the removal of crosses from mosques or any Islamic religious institutions. However, to impose their unhappiness and intolerance over Christian symbols on Church buildings is altogether an appalling act. It does not speak well of a multi-racial and multi-religious society that is based on values enshrined in the constitution of Malaysia. If the government does not do anything, it is the beginning of more such persecutions and blatant bullying of the religious rights of non-Muslims.

In Singapore, there is also a different kind of intolerance brewing. This is especially with regards to the highly charged homosexuality issue. Certain personalities have become so synonymous with the anti-gay or pro-gay movements that any public appearance would lead to an immediate backlash against them. They do not need to do much or say anything. All they need to do is to simply appear and get some corporate organization to support their programme in public, and lo and behold, a vocal group in public would be up in arms against that organization. Once a label is stuck, it does not matter what an individual or an organization does. It could be a simple children's charity fund-raiser or a common sports event, when the complaints flow, all hell breaks loose, fast and furious.

Is there room for tolerance in societies? As far as ISIS is concerned, it is a clear cut black and white. Whoever does not embrace Islam (or their brand of Islam) is consider blasphemous. I think there is more than meets the eye. The atrocities committed may be done in the name of religion, but the truth is it is a political retaliation against their enemies. The recent killings of Ethiopian Christians by ISIS is also largely a retaliation against the way the Ethiopian government has been attacking Somalia, whose citizens are largely Muslim. I believe that behind every religious persecution is a mix-pot of political orientations, ethnic sensitivities, ideological supremacies, and of course sinful desires to conquer and control.

As far as the case of the Malaysian Church having to remove their cross from their buildings, it is basically a rise of Malay extremism and an equally embarrassing lack of protection of non-Muslims by the government of Malaysia. The proof is in the pudding. If the current authorities do not have the discipline and guts to enforce the constitution, the future will be very bleak for the whole of Malaysia. I am not saying that only for non-Muslims. I am also concerned for my fellow Muslim friends. For what has happened to the non-Muslims may very well happen to the various sectors of the Islamic religion. Just think about the distinction between the conservatives and the progressives. Think of the radicalism happening in the Middle East. Imagine a radical group who brandishes a form of Islam trying to impose their radicalism on every Muslim in Malaysia. Will the authorities who are passive with regards to persecutions of non-Muslim be equally passive with regards to radical Islamic groups?

For if one does not rein in the divisive elements of society, the perpetrators will divide and conquer according to their agendas. No one likes to see a divided society split apart by ideologies. No one likes to see a nation divided right down the middle. I do not like to see Malaysia having a total meltdown where different groups distrust one another. I do not want to see non-Muslims living in constant fear of what other religious practices they have to surrender next. I do not wish to see a government that is divided inside and distrusted outside. Sadly, that is happening.

For Singapore, we must remain vigilant against all kinds of extremism. The media must be fair in representing both sides of the debate. Christians must be wise in knowing how to engage public matters. They may have fundamental beliefs in their churches or organizations. When it comes to public arenas, they need to seek wisdom and care not to be seen imposing their values. It is increasingly hard in a hostile climate. Certain names and organizations have already been blacklisted. My suggestion for those blacklisted individuals and groups is this. Take the quiet and charitable approach. Aim your resources to helping the poor, the vulnerable, and the weak. Be seen in public through charitable acts that represent Jesus Christ truthfully in love and good works. There is no point winning a debate but losing the war. Blessed are those who are persecuted in the name of Christ. May that persecution be done out of good deeds and truthful living. God can defend himself.

One more thing. According to Brant Hansen, we can choose to be "unoffendable." We can choose not to be angry. We can choose not to be easily worked up by comments different from us. We can choose to pray and seek God's wisdom in how to respond. Hansen adds:

"We should forfeit our right to be offended. That means forfeiting our right to hold on to anger. When we do this, we’ll be making a sacrifice that’s very pleasing to God. It strikes at our very pride. It forces us not only to think about humility, but to actually be humble." (Brant Hansen, Unoffendable, Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2015, p2-3)

There is much to pray for. Pray for the world where fellow believers are killed for their faith. They are martyrs. Pray for Malaysian Christians as they live out their faith and struggle in the increasingly hostile environment. Encourage them. Pray for Singapore Christians to be wise to know when to engage in public and when not to engage. Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies too. We need to do this with increasing frequency.

Lord, restrain the evil. May your power be strengthened in our weakness.

THOUGHT: "All the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of a single candle." (Anonymous)


Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at . You can also send me an email at for comments or inquiries. Note that views expressed are personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any person(s) or organization(s).

No comments:

Post a Comment