Monday, October 15, 2007

Christians in Bangladesh:

It is not popular or even human it seems to follow the Matthew 5:39 principle? You would have to be super-human. Okay, before you go searching for your Bibles to find what Matthew 5:39 says, I’ll save you much time along with the arteriosclerosis and frustration that will inevitably ensue if you have not seen it since the Bicentennial. It is the passage in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus commands us to “resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” In response to this verse I am tempted to shoot back, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it” (John 6:60)? Would the 5:39 principle, after all, be one that you would encourage your son to follow walking home from school? Is this principle nothing more than cowardice, or is it actually the highest form of bravery when properly understood?

In the August 2007 issue of Voice of the Martyrs, the lives of several persecuted Christians in Bangladesh were showcased which may answer this question for us.

For years, Bangladesh, which is historically non-Muslim, has morphed into a radicalized Muslim nation due largely to oil money from Saudi Arabia. Thousands of new madrassas have been erected (A “madrassa” is a school which educates students on the Qur’an, and are usually preoccupied with its mandate to wage jihad). According to BBC News, we are told that in 1970, there were 1,500 registered madrassas in Bangladesh. Today, there are more than 8,000.
Yet, steeped in this caldron of radical Islam is a radically saved group of Christians who are sharing the love of Jesus Christ, not just with their lips, but with their lives, and in many cases, their deaths. I am convinced that when you see hundreds of Muslims come to know Christ in an environment where naming Christ is itself a sentence of death, you are seeing something supernatural; super-human. These conversions can only be attributed to the power of God (John 1:12-13).

Momina was a faithful Muslim woman living in Bangladesh. Yet, she sensed the emptiness of this bankrupt religion and felt trapped. One day, after Momina’s husband walked out on her and her father lay sick, she broke down and cried under the weight. At that very moment, in God’s providence, a former Muslim, named Aban, who had recently converted to Christ handed her a Bible that would change her life forever. Receiving Christ would cost her dearly.
In accordance with Sharia holy law, Momina’s family had to view her now as a black sheep, and began to curse her for leaving Islam. One day, with her eight-month old daughter sitting on the porch, her own brother fell upon her in rage, beating her multiple times with a bamboo cane, cracking her ribs and leaving her unconscious. Not to allow her any relief, Momina’s brother jerked her awake with a splash of cold water and beat her some more. At this point, her cousin was also beating her while crying, “We educated you . . . you have knowledge and sense. So why do you go and become a Christian?”

After this horrific incident, Momina’s parents kicked her out of the village with her two young daughters, given the promise that if she ever came back, she would be poisoned and killed.
But remember the Muslim-turned-Christian, named Aban, who gave her a copy of the Bible to begin with? This man was so moved by her circumstances that he took her in and married her. After all, he had been dealt much the same blows; his own wife and family forsook him after hearing that he received Christ.

Today, this couple, Aban and Momina, both travel from village to village, preaching the gospel of Christ, and have been run out of twenty-two villages thus far. This couple knows the Matthew 5:39 principle in ways that we as Americans could only dream of. Are they cowards for following this principle? Certainly anyone who knows their testimony would cry “No way!”
When asked about her sufferings, Momina says that she loves those who hurt her and has a burning desire to share the good news with them. When asked how she could have the boldness to continue going into the caldron, she is quoted as saying, “God makes us brave. Our Father [God] suffered many things, so I also need to suffer many things in this life.”

Turning the other cheek out of selfish fear for your own life is cowardice. But turning the other cheek out of fear for your attacker’s life, yea also eternal death in Hell without life, is the highest form of bravery. It is the bravery that Christ himself exhibited when he himself walked the earth, and this is the principle He sought to teach us in Matthew 5:39.

We can learn much from the example of this couple in their ability to turn the other cheek because it was anything but cowardice; it proves that in the face of death, God makes them bold. Aban alone has led at least 72 Muslims to Christ because of his persistent boldness and zeal to share the love of Christ. By turning the other cheek, he has turned every head to see a love which is super-human; a love which is not of this world (John 15:19-20). Chrysostom, who was one of our early church fathers reminded us to follow Christ’s example of sacrifice when he said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” It is no wonder then why the church is rapidly growing in places like Bangladesh where it is most rapidly being mown down. God’s principles never fail.

Pray that God will give us the same zeal to live out the Matthew 5:39 principle, not as cowards, but with the boldness of lions (Proverbs 28:1), who will gladly welcome persecution, imprisonment, peril and even the sword because we have a hope that cannot die (I Peter 1:3-4), because we fear not man who kills the body. Rather, we fear God who alone kills both the body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

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