In Mark 7v24 -30 we have the story of the Syro-phoenician woman and her encounter with Jesus. What struck me above all things  was the fact that as people who live on the southern tip of Africa, but have a predominantly west-ernized society, we have a lot more to appreciate than we sometimes think.

The statistic that we so often quote … that 60% of our Christian brothers and sisters live in countries that remain hostile towards the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, is something that I think does not really hit home unless we have lived in an environment that is as hostile to the evangelical Christian faith as the governments of Afghanistan, China, Saudi Arabia and other anti-Christ (or anti Jesus) governments are.

I think we see this in so many ways but what stood out most to me is the fact that we seem to remain rather casual towards Christianity in a great many ways. We need to ask ourselves how we would react and how we would live our lives if we faced long term imprisonment or even death for confessing the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. At best, in our context, we would be marginalized, ignored or laughed at … at worst we may face a mild form of censure for standing up for and affirming our belief in the One True and Living God.

The Syrophoenician woman did not take offence or become hostile towards Jesus when He effectively called her a dog. Instead, with great humility, knowing that she does not deserve anything from Jesus and that she had no right to demand His Favour, she says to Him that even as a dog, she would take whatever it was that He would give to her … even if it were the crumbs that fell from the bread that He came to give to the children of Israel.

She placed her trust and all of her faith in His Goodness, His Love and His Mercy and knelt before Him as His Servant. Her faith, her humility and her refusal to take offence allowed the Favour of Christ to rest upon her and she received her reward.

We, dear friends, are in a much better position than this poor woman because we know that we live under the Lordship of Jesus and that we have been forgiven of our sin and have been added to the household of faith. We are, in essence, Children of God and He is our Father.

This brings us to the very core of what I think, at times, causes our casual approach to our faith and to our Saviour.

Just as we tend to neglect those closest to us and neglect those who love us the most because we take their love for granted (because we know that regardless of what we do or say they will still be there when we need them), I think that we take our faith in Christ for granted because we know that God our Father will never abandon us.

The remoteness of the suffering Christian communities add to this unreality because very few of us have actually witnessed openly, hostile or destructive persecution of believers. I am firmly convinced that many of the things that we think are normal, many of the things that we believe are our right, many of the things that we felt entitled to and so neglect because of its familiarity, would be treasured by those who live in these anti-Christian parts of the world. Things like having a Bible that we hardly read would be unfathomable to those who have never laid eyes on a Bible or at best have seen a few pages of one.

Neglecting our responsibility to be an active part of a Church and skipping worship services for shopping sprees or a day at the beach would be mystifying to that 60% of persecuted believers who run the very real risk of being arrested, imprisoned and tortured for attending a Bible Study or Home Group. Taking a few weeks “off” from the life that we find in the Church would be heart breaking to somebody who is sentenced to death for being caught worshipping Jesus with other believers in a cave or forest.

I am convinced that we do not know how very blessed we are and so take the freedom of confessing Christ and joining with other believers to worship Him, for granted.

May we all take some time to reflect on these words and to answer for ourselves whether or not we would change our approach to our faith if everything we take for granted like a Bible, a Church building and regular worship services, were stripped from us tomorrow and we were told that these things were now illegal. Would we be satisfied that we appreciated and were good stewards of all that God had given us or would we look back in regret and long for the things that we refused to appreciate when we had them.

Mark


Filed under: From the Pastor's Desk

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