My hubby, Papa Bear, works with a man–we’ll call him Abe–and here is his story:
Abe came to the United States several years ago from Algeria. At some point after coming, he got married, started a family, and began the process toward becoming a US citizen. It cost Abe 5-figures of cash to complete this process, and he had to jump (through more hoops) and cross over more (red) tape than the Olympian “trampoliners” and runners combined.
He gained his citizenship the legal way, though–and it just takes time and money. About 18 months ago, it became official. He is a US citizen! WOOHOO! He is free! At least as free as our nation is right now…
One other thing to tell you about Abe is…he is a Muslim. He is a very nice person–and this month, he is a very nice HUNGRY person, as the Muslim community celebrates Ramadan. As I understand the laws of Ramadan, Abe can only eat and drink–as well as smoke and brush teeth–between the hours of 6pm and 6am…and eat/drink/smoke/brush nothing (no intake at all) from 6am-6pm….ALL MONTH LONG. So he is basically eating dinner, going to sleep, and getting up SUPER early to get a meal in before the required fasting hours.
This post is not about the Muslim faith, or what they are celebrating this month. Abe has a lot of struggle going on in his life–and he really needs Jesus! My hubby, since he has developed a friendship with him, has had many conversations with Abe to get to know his beliefs and also to ask him what his thoughts are about certain things. Well…the latest conversation they had has struck a chord with me.
To make the long story shorter for you, my hubby basically was discussing Abe’s impression of Christians. Oooohhhh…. Some of you may be intrigued here…like I was!
Here was his answer:
“Muslims live like Muslims no matter where they live. Many here who call themselves Christians are just Americans. They don’t live like Christians. They live like Americans.”
I repeat with my paraphrase:
They call themselves Christians, but they are just Americans. They don’t act like Christians–they act like Americans.
At first, I thought–well, in this country, chances are that he is seeing Christian Americans. The accurate history of our nation is that Christians came over the great big blue (the ocean) for the very purpose of setting up a nation where they are free to serve God the way they wanted to–not just how the Anglican church was forcing them to.
But then I thought a bit more on it, and I began to wonder WHY does he see those Americans who profess to be Christians as one or the other. Is there a difference???
Well…here is what I do know…
God says we are IN the world, but not OF the world. And that “they” (meaning non-believers) will know us by our fruits. And Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
So this deal with Chik-fil-A lately has had me thinking about the difference between being Christian and being American–before Abe ever made his statement. (Another post is coming about Chik-fil-A…)
Right now, though, I am stunned by what Abe said. Not because I don’t agree with his statement, but because I DO.
Lately, the Lord has been showing me SO many ways that my life (and I’ll even say the church) has been formed based on CULTURE, rather than formed based on His Word. From the simplest habits to the grandest plans, I’m constantly being challenged now by His Word on these things.
For example–I LOVE sleeping in late! My kids sleep in, I do not have a job, and we homeschool–so I CAN sleep in if I want or need to. But I see in His Word that the Proverbs 31 woman rises while it is still night to prepare food for her household. Not to mention all the Scripture on laziness and being a lover of sleep. So I’m challenged to get up before my kids do and get busy with working for the Lord!
That’s just ONE example where I’m seeking God’s Word on the matter, where I have been going by what I CAN do–what I have the “right” to do.
And THAT is what I think Abe sees as the difference. Here in America, we have the RIGHT to do so many things that do not line up with God’s Word. We call it FREEDOM. Personally, I love being free like America allows. But the question I ask myself is not “can I do this?”, asking whether the world will let me…but “SHOULD I do this?”–asking whether it is what God would want me to do.
And in the Word of God, we read about being set free by Christ. I get it. I really do understand the freedom that I have as a believer. But that freedom is NOT freedom on this earth. It is not freedom to live as I want to while I live on this ball of mud. I am called to obey God’s laws. Yes–that includes the laws of the land, and submitting to earthly authorities, but that falls AFTER obedience to God. Obey God first, America second.
We are free, as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, to obey God and not be overtaken by our sinful nature. Freedom to love and serve others and not be bound by a hardened heart and selfish desires. Freedom to suffer for Christ’s name, just as He suffered for our sins.
If America gives you the “right” to do something, but God clearly does not, then obey God!
The freedom for which Christ died is the freedom from the law of sin and death–freedom that we will attain only after death. We are not set free by Him in order to live as we please. We are set free by Him in order to submit ourselves and our bodies as slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18).
So I see that as Americans, we are fighting for freedom in this world–you know, for the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. That all sounds GREAT! Except–God promises that believers will be persecuted, even jailed and/or killed, for our beliefs. For now, in our country, the law doesn’t require that of us. We are still “allowed” to worship Him without the risk of death or prison in our nation. That’s not the case for believers in other countries. So life isn’t a guarantee as a believer–not life on this earth anyway. And liberty isn’t guaranteed by God–if we are imprisoned for His sake. And the pursuit of happiness is the American dream–it is not something that God promised us. America affords us great opportunity–but God has promised that He will provide food and clothing for us. He has not promised to provide a house, a job, a car, an Xbox or iPhone. Those are freedoms America gives us.
As an American who IS a Christian…I find it difficult to see the difference between the two. So it’s no wonder that our Muslim friend can’t tell, either. I see protests and fighting and speaking out on behalf of an American right. Rights that we have because of where we live–not because of Who we serve.
God says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” …..”So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Food, drink, clothes. If we seek first His kingdom, THESE things will be given to us as well. Not the right to go to school. Not the right to get a job. Not the right to buy a house. Not the right to drive a car. Not the right to drink or smoke. Not even the right to vote or the right to be free instead of a slave. All of THESE things have been given to us by the world.
I want to challenge all of my readers to do what I’ve just done. I’ve just read the entire New Testament in the past two months–in HUGE chunks at a time. Through that time, I finally learned that I’m saved by God’s grace alone. I’ve learned that I’m free from an eternal death.
But I’ve also found that this earth is not my home. I am a citizen of heaven. My citizenship has been paid for by the blood of my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Just like Abe was an Algerian and is now an American because of the price he paid (with time and money), but lives like a Muslim, no matter where he lives…I want to live like a Christian–no matter where I live. And THAT is why Jesus paid the price for me.