Dear Nohad — A Letter to a Persecuted Christian
1 November 2013
Yesterday I read about your difficult situation in an article on the Jihad Watch Web site — how you were falsely accused of insulting Islam and as a result lost the job you have had for the past 13 years. I can understand your overwhelming despair and depression, your fear of reprisals, and your feeling that you are now unemployable and that your life has been ruined.
Because you are a Christian, I'm hoping that you will let me share with you some encouraging thoughts from the Bible, which is the source of truth we must turn to in difficult times (and in easy times as well).
First of all, I want to remind you that God has not forgotten you, and that you are very special and precious to Him. Yeshua (Jesus) explained this long ago:
"All peoples will hate you because you are My follower. But if you endure to the end you will be saved.... Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the Master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of My household will be called by even worse names!As you can see from Yeshua's own words, because you are His follower you should expect to be treated as unfairly as He was. I don't think you need to look to human courts for justice — either at a British court or a European court — for you belong to the Judge above all other judges. In God's court you are guaranteed to receive justice, perhaps in this life, but most definitely in the life to come when Yeshua returns to judge and rule the world.
"But don't be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!
"Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows — one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
"Everyone who acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven. But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven. Don't imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.... If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of being Mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it." (Matthew 10:22,24-34,38,39
Yeshua's follower and close friend, Peter, had wisdom from God to share with those who have been unjustly accused:
God is pleased with you when you do what is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you suffer for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Yeshua suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. (1 Peter 2:19-23)It is quite interesting that in this passage, where the word "pleased" appears twice in English, Peter used the Greek word charis, which is generally translated (over 100 times in the New Testament) as grace. There are other Greek words — like aresko and related forms, as well as eudokeo — which are generally used in this sense of "to please."
The fact that Peter chose to use the word charis / grace rather than one of these other Greek words seems to indicate some kind of deeper, fuller and alternate meaning. But even the word "grace" in English can seem abstract and hard to grasp. A common definition for grace is "God's undeserved gift or favor." Charis has the meanings and connotations of "favor, beauty, thankfulness, gratitude, delight, kindness, benefit."
When Peter was writing about suffering injustice, did he actually mean that this suffering is an expression of God's grace? Because he used the phrase "this is charis / grace" twice, I don't think this interpretation is stretching the linguistic facts at all. What Peter is communicating can be taken in two different but related ways. First, when we suffer unjustly, God's grace is given to us in order to help us bear it patiently.
Secondly, and even more profoundly, the unjust suffering itself can be considered a grace, a gift, a favor, a benefit from God. How can this be? It is a gift from God because it gives us the opportunity to walk in Yeshua's footsteps and follow His example. The Apostle Paul wrote that he wanted to know Yeshua better by partnering with Him in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). To be a Christian is to be like Christ, and part of that is to suffer for the sake of God and for the sake of others, just as Yeshua did.
Paul shared another reason that suffering for Yeshua's sake is a gift from God:
Because we are God's children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Messiah we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:17-18)God is a loving Father who wants us to have as wonderful an inheritance as possible. What is this glorious inheritance? Numerous verses in the New Testament talk about this, but I will quote only one verse here, the words of Yeshua Himself:
"To all who are victorious, who obey Me to the very end, to them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from My Father." (Revelation 2:26-28a)Father God has an inheritance for His Son Yeshua: to rule the entire world when Yeshua returns. Yeshua wants to share that inheritance with us, His followers. But, as Paul wrote, if we are to share in His glory, then we must also share His sufferings. If we are victorious in our sufferings and obey Him to the very end, we will be found worthy to receive the inheritance He has planned for us.
The unjust suffering which we experience in this life truly is a grace from God, because it prepares us for our glorious eternal inheritance, making us qualified to receive it. Part of the process of becoming like Yeshua is by suffering unjustly as He did. God doesn't want us to miss out on our inheritance, so He does what is necessary in our lives in order that we won't — if we remain in a place of victory and obedience in the suffering.
How do we do that? By following Yeshua's example. As Peter wrote, "He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly." In your situation, this is the example you are called to follow.
I read in the article that you are married to a Muslim. That surprised me, for Paul wrote: "Don't team up with those who are unbelievers.... How can light live with darkness? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14a,14c,15b) But perhaps your husband converted to Islam after your marriage. Paul has instructions for that situation as well: "If a Christian woman has a husband who is not a Christian and his is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the Christian wife bring holiness to her marriage.... your husband might be saved because of you." (1 Corinthians 7:13,14a,16a)
Regarding your future employment and income, I want to remind you that you have a caring Heavenly Father who loves you, has a plan for you, and is able to open doors of opportunity for you which no one can shut. He wants you to look to Him as your guide and provider rather than looking to mere humans. Yeshua vividly explained all this:
"You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.You may feel like a victim of injustice, but the reality is that you are a daughter of the Great King, and He has a glorious plan and purpose for your life. Don't miss out on this plan by indulging in self-pity, remaining in a state of victimhood, and fighting legal battles for your "rights." Make the move in your perspective from being a victim to a victor. Earnestly seek your Heavenly Father, and let Him reveal to you what He wants you to be doing, and how He wants you to be earning a living.
"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to Him than birds.
"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion — do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers — most of which are never even seen — don't you think He will attend to you, take pride in you, do His best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." (Matthew 6:24-34)
After you have faithfully lived for Him in this life, which James writes is only a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14), you will then enter into His Heavenly Kingdom, and at the appointed time receive the glorious inheritance which He has prepared for you.
And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Messiah, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)Wishing you all the best, your fellow pilgrim,