We just returned from Israel and my heart is full of many things. The Lord stirred my spirit about personal things, ministry things, relational things. As with any trip overseas, we have to be careful to not make blanket statements that sound like everyone and everything is included in our observations. But I do believe what I am about to share is a good generalization of the facts.
We had the privilege of visiting with several Arab Palestinian Christians from Pastor Steven Khoury's church in East Jerusalem. I also had the privilege of preaching in Bethlehem at First Baptist Church. Steven's father, Naim, is the pastor there. We spoke with people who lost family members who were killed just because they became Christians. 70% are unemployed, many because they lost their jobs because they became Christians. A number have been ostracized by their families for their faith. They are suspect or disliked by the Jews because they are Palestinian. They are objects of wrath and seen as traitors by the Muslims because they are Christian and are favorable at some level to the Jews. They are hated by the mainline religious groups because they are Evangelicals. They have no one to stand with them except other evangelicals around the world. For them, being a Christian is easy. You either are or you are not but there is no in between. To become a Christian there means either in fact or potentially losing your family ties, job or your very life. It means all. Christ is your life. And they live by faith every day.
Now I think about life in the West. What does my Christian life cost me here? I was humbled and heart-sick over how selfish, self-centered and entitled our "faith" is in the West. Consider these statements: "I'm leaving the church because you changed "my service." "Your" service? Who are we worshiping? Let's see, we have worship, teaching, prayer and fellowship at that service and that is a reason to leave? "I can't attend services or read my Bible or be in a small group or give any offering because I'm too busy or financially strapped." Really? Did you find time to watch TV, pay for a movie or Starbucks or lottery ticket? "I can't be too vocal about my faith because I may offend someone." Hum? We are to be ready always to give a reason for the hope that we have. Our brothers and sisters in the West Bank are taking their faith into the most dangerous areas and Christ is doing the miraculous.
I came home repentant and ashamed. Again, I don't want to throw guilt around. That is the Holy Spirit's job. But I am ashamed of what we call being good Christians if what I have described is used as the test. I am asking the Lord to break us of ourselves, every bit of us, until all that is left is an absolute dependence on and need for Christ. Then we may find what it truly means to be a Christian.