January 20, Friday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

Are You Keeping Scores?  It’s a Tie “Ballgame.”

Mathew 5:43-4

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

20On the web, I found this statement: “Christians have invaded and colonized a dozen Muslim countries in the past 100 years.”  My response: Why start the discussion from such an arbitrary point; why not begin from the very outset of their clash at the geopolitical level?  Those who want to lay all the blame on the church may not want to go there, because it will not fit their revisionist and selective history.

The first clash between these two groups occurred in the 8th century, when the Moors from North Africa, who had been conquered and converted to Islam by the Saracen Empire (from Middle East), successfully attacked Spain.  They then penetrated as far as central France (Tours) to subject the entire Europe to Islam.

The next major clash was the infamous Crusades, beginning from 1095, for which the Roman Catholic Church owes a major apology to the Muslims, Jews and believers of the Eastern Church, since they all fell victims to these misguided and radicalized Christians from Europe.   If you are keeping scores, it is 1:1.

Now, here is how I became aware of the third clash.  In 1992, after Bosnia—as part of former Yugoslavia—declared its independence, the Serbs began the campaign to “cleanse” much of the Bosnian territory contiguous with Serbia.  Subsequently, as many as 2 million Bosnians (about 44% being Muslims) were displaced out of Bosnia.  While reading about this, I began wondering how these Eastern Europeans became Muslims in the first place.  It was because after the Ottoman Turks conquered the Serbs (including Bosnia in 1463) as part of their military campaign against the Holy Roman Empire, the Turks forced the conversions of the Bosnian nobility, which one author described as “unusually harsh.”  Over the years, while one group of Serbs became Muslims, the rest continued to be part of the Orthodox Church.

The 4th round of their conflict occurred when European countries such as England and France occupied Iraq and Syria, respectively, at the behest of the League of Nations after World War I.  This event and the Crusades, then, are selectively cited by the critics of the church to present Christianity in its worst light.

Presently, the 5th round of their ongoing conflict (including the 9/11 and the military response thereafter by America) is played out on the soils of Europe and America through terrorism carried out by radicalized Muslims.

No, don’t keep scores—that’s foolishness.  Instead, since we claim to follow Christ who taught us to “love your enemies,” let us love Muslims, most of whom are our neighbors, not enemies.

Prayer: Lord, help me open my spiritual and theological eyes to understand that Your common grace is given to all, including Muslims.  Give me humility and soundness of mind not to paint all Muslims with a broad brush based on terroristic acts committed by radicalized Muslims.  Give me courage to love them. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 21


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

20bRead Jonah 1:1-3 (NIV): The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord

Questions to Consider

  1. Based on the prior (before the time of Jonah around 760 B.C.) and on-going conflict between Israel and Assyria (known for their cruelty), can you understand why Jonah did not want to preach in Nineveh?
  2. What is one similarity between how Jonah felt toward the Assyrians and how some Christians in the West feel toward radicalized Muslims and their sympathizers?
  3. The Assyrians worshipped many gods, including Tammuz (Ez. 8:14). What is suggested by God’s call to Jonah to preach the message of repentance in Nineveh (the capital of the Assyrian Empire)?  How should that realization change us?

Notes

  1. Yes, we can sympathize with Jonah. Understandably, Jonah wanted to see the Assyrians pay for their ruthlessness and cruelty meted out against his people.
  2. The similarity is obvious: inasmuch as Jonah disliked the Assyrians, some Christians in the West dislike the Muslims because of terroristic acts committed by some radicalized Muslims.
  3. It shows clearly the heart of God for all nations, which is aptly summarized by the apostle Peter: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). We should all be dedicated to world missions, which, at its center, is bringing the gospel to the nations.

EVENING REFLECTION

When was the last time you read a book that deals with church history?  What was presented in the morning devotional came from the study of church history.  We must know it because the enemy is using revisionist history to debunk our faith (e.g., The Da Vinci Code).  Try Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley (Thomas Nelson 2013).  Also, familiarize yourself with the kings of Israel by reading 1 & 2 Samuel; 1 & 2 Kings; and 1 & 2 Chronicles.

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