— A Christian Perspective —
The news coming out of Afghanistan in recent days has been difficult to watch. And while television pundits have endlessly debated the potential political fallout, my heart and mind have been fixated upon the people—those who have spent the last two decades dreaming of and working towards a better future for themselves, their children, and their nation. I am particularly burdened for our hard-pressed Christian brothers and sisters there. In even the best of times, they have been a heavily persecuted minority. Now? Well, it isn’t hard to guess what is likely to come next. In fact, troubling reports are already filtering in of atrocities committed against Christians in some parts of the country.
Yesterday, as I was praying and studying, I found myself re-reading Hebrews 11 and 12. Hebrews 11 is known by many as “the Faith Chapter” and in it the writer gives examples of people of faith throughout history who acted confidently on what they believed. He recalls the stories of Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and others in quick succession. He continues, “I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised.” What an impressive pantheon of heroes!
But, beginning in verse 35, he shows us another side of faithfulness.
“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them.” Hebrews 11:35-38
Notice how the writer lumps them all together—the heroic victors and the unjustly afflicted martyrs. It appears that it isn’t simply the outcome that matters. It is the exercise of faith that matters.
Sadly, it is possible that, unless God intervenes powerfully, many of our Afghan brothers and sisters will be called to join that long line of faithful followers stretching back to antiquity for whom the world was not worthy. Chapter 12 refers to them as “a great cloud of witnesses” that surround us—watching, urging us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Pray for them. Pray for strength. Pray for protection and provision. Pray for encouragement. Pray for boldness. Pray that they will be able to run with perseverance the race marked out for them. And while you are at it, thank God that, so far at least, you have not been called to such a demanding and costly race as theirs.
But just as importantly, honor them. Honor them by running your race with passion and determination. For though we do not get to choose the time and place of our birth, we are each accountable for the level of faithfulness, perseverance, and sacrifice with which we run the race marked out for us.