Saturday, June 14, 2014

Commentariat and Christians

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag 300x192

Northern Ireland's 'commentariat' has been very busy lately following the Islam / Muslim controversy. Aside from the remarks which were made, the subsequent fallout and media storm from those remarks, and finally the apologies, what was revealing to me throughout it all is how detached that commentariat now is from grasping the simplest terminology and beliefs of orthodox Biblical Christian faith. The BBC's own Ed Stourton described this as an 'allergy' in this article earlier in the week.

When a radio host is seemingly oblivious to the difference between 'adultery' and 'apostasy' and repeatedly says the former when the issue is actually the latter; when a Pentecostal is described as a 1646 Calvinist; when run-of-the-mill ordinary Christian folk are casually painted as 'progressive' society's biggest obstacle, who are all either closet or outright racists, it just shows how far away our present-day 'opinion-formers' are from understanding the evangelical Christian community, across multiple denominations, and what we all believe.

From the moment when the early Christian church was 'born', it has been international and multicultural. Acts chapter 2 speaks of '...Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs...' being present. There's a map below which shows where these places are. As Jesus carried the cross through Jerusalem a man from Cyrene assisted him. As Jesus' disciple Philip travelled he met a government official from Ethiopia who became a Christian as they talked and read the Bible together - Isaiah 53 was an 800-year old text which foretold Jesus' life. Europeans, Middle Easterns, Asians, Africans. People of every colour and ethnicity.

{All of these people, and millions or billions ever since then, were compelled to respond to the message that Jesus came to make us right with God, something that our own efforts can never achieve. The living fulfilment of all of the Laws which the Jews could never keep. His own summary of the Sermon on the Mount - 'Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect' - is an utterly unattainable goal. But one which Christ himself meets on our behalf, for all who realise their condition and who then trust in Him alone, and emphatically not in any church or in their own self-imagined merits }

The Apostle Paul famously took this Gospel 'Good News' message of Christ into the Gentile countries and the Roman empire of the European continent. The classic Foxes Book of Martyrs of 1563 records traditions that some of Jesus' disciples travelled east as far as India, up into Ukraine, south into Africa. Fast forward to the last book of the Bible and a scene is painted in the future of 'a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language' all gathered together to worship Christ.

There are uninformed Christians. There are stupid Christians. There are Christians who say the wrong thing in the wrong way. I am not the sharpest pencil in the box so I am one of them too. But the 'inquisitors' are also uninformed - in an age of alleged 'diversity' (but which is ironically quite narrow in its scope) 'orthodoxy' has become the default target. However, Biblical orthodoxy is far more diverse than its opponents acknowledge.

At the time of writing, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is still sentenced to death in Sudan. Here is the Amnesty International webpage in support of her. She is just one example. The work of Open Doors continues across the globe - many of the nations represented in the Acts 2 map below have large Christian communities today, many of whom are under threat of persecution and death.

In Brazil, location of the 2014 World Cup, 600,000 evangelical Christians held a huge event in Rio, and a reported 2 million did likewise in Sao Paolo before the tournament began.

For generations all Sunday School children learned this simple text from John 3v16 -  'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Christians can sing an old hymn like 'Jesus Shall Lead Me' among the trees of Rwanda just as well as anyone in Ulster.


Pentecost map

"... And hath made of one blood all nations ..." Acts 17 v 26