The people we’re working with are Christian refugees from a closed Muslim country. I know that’s a roundabout way of describing them, but in light of security concerns that’s the safest language to use. There’s a large group of them living in this city and their numbers are swelled during this holiday to the point that the streets and restaurants are filled with them.
There are two groups. The first is the Christians and their friends, family members and acquaintances who are still practicing Muslims but interested enough in our message to hang around. The second group I can best describe as seekers–those hungry for an alternative to the emptiness and darkness of Islam but haven’t yet encountered our message. The first group will go to any lengths to find the second and introduce them to our Lord. They’re tireless in the effort and always on the lookout for the next person from their homeland who will listen to the message.
We saw some of the results of this level of passion and conviction last night in an open reception where many seeking Muslims came to talk about our message and learn more about our Lord. At the end of the evening five young adults made the decision to follow our Lord. This is a seismic change for them! Their families have likely been Muslim for more years than our nation has been in existence. Their status when they return to their homeland will be irrevocably changed. They’ve place themselves in danger of harassment, persecution or worse. But they still made that choice. Their action proves their spiritual hunger but in a larger sense it reveals the power of our message.
As I observe these people I’m struck not only by the depth of their faith but also the lesson they have to teach us. Its not the oboes one about courage, although that’s true enough. The greater lesson is how to understand our true place in the surrounding culture.
These people have figured out how to live a biblical lifestyle under a government and in a culture adamantly opposed to their beliefs. They’re not countercultural, say, in the way the Amish are. They work at secular jobs, participate in their communities and utilize modern technology. But their core convictions are radically different from the Muslim world they live in; and in fact have them on a collision course with it.
Somehow they’ve managed to negotiate their precarious position. The Bible would call this being in the world and not of it. And in our own country evangelicals at least will shortly be in a similar position. As pressure mounts on believers in our country to conform to the emerging secular consensus, our convictions will lead us into conflict with the powers that be. Like our friends in Central Asia, we’ll have to learn how to exist on the fringes of society and not in the positions of influence we’ve enjoyed for so long.