Sentenced to Gitmo with Jesus

Jim Hamilton writes:

The word about taking up the cross to follow Jesus probably sounded like a call to risk Roman retribution when Jesus spoke it (Matt. 10:38). In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, the word calls the followers of Jesus to lay down their lives by faith for others in obedience to God, just as Jesus did. Herein is the paradox that condemns all selfishness, and through judgment comes the salvation of living for others to God’s glory by faith: “The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life on account of me will find it” (10:39).

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. pgs 371-372.

I found this paragraph fascinating and troubling. It was fascinating for me because I had never really thought about the call to pick up my cross as a call to risk retribution by my own government. These would have been frightfully chilling words. Embrace revolution. Embrace radicalization. Uneducated though they may be, Jesus’ fishermen disciples knew exactly what He was calling them to do. Jesus was calling the disciples to a way of life that put them at odds with the most powerful military force the planet had ever seen. And not only that, but this life was also going to mark them out as the worst scum in the Empire. Crucifixion was reserved for only vilest of criminals. Rome would not even subject their own citizens to the punishment. However, the pain and torment of crucifixion was only part of the punishment. There was also a deep shamefulness associated with the cross. This is to what Jesus called his disciples. A life that would be marked by shame, humiliation and most likely death at the hands of your own government. Strangely, this is the only way to eternal life (Matthew 10:39). Against everything our natural inclinations tells us, embracing death really means embracing life. This is quite a paradox. One that only the Gospel can reconcile peaceably.

Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

The troubling aspect of this paragraph hit me as I wondered how many in today’s churches would resign their membership if pressed to make such a commitment. Rather, I wonder how many would be willing to risk not only their lives, but also to be marked out as the worst sort of person. I wonder how many Christians would remain so, if it meant being associated with terrorists. Average Joe American hates nothing more than a terrorist. All the images of 9/11 coming flooding back at just the mention of the word. And I believe that if Jesus was here today, instead of calling Americans to pick up their cross and follow him, Jesus might say “risk being sentenced to Guantanamo Bay and follow me.” Now that would wake people up. Can you imagine their reaction? Our worthiness of following Jesus is tied up exactly in whether or not we think He’s worth terroristic associations and terroristic charges. If we take seriously our commitments to Jesus, it will not be a stretch for the world to label us as terrorists. For the sword we bear is capable of exposing the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12) and darkness does not like to be exposed (Eph. 5:11).

The question that lays before us is, will we follow Jesus no matter what the cost? Will we follow him, even if the path to death led through Gitmo? I pray that answer is yes. For it is the only way to eternal life.

~sdg

PS – One of my pastors (Pastor Jeremy Haskins) preached a great sermon on this passage after I had written this post. I highly commend it to you. You will be challenged and edified!

His Banner Over Us Is Death! The Sword of the Kingdom Kills Your Best Life Now (Matthew 10:34-39)

If you would like to hear more preaching like this, you can subscribe to my church’s podcast on iTunes or listen to more sermons here.

We Risk So Little

I risk almost nothing for my faith. And if you live in the West, you probably don’t either. I have been thinking a lot about risk and my faith as of late. I have been praying for an imprisoned brother in Afghanistan. He was being threatened with death if he did not recant his Christian faith. He was able to smuggle a letter out of his dingy prison cell. He told of beatings, sexual abuse and threats of death.

Thankfully, we learned this past week that he was freed after international pressure. His name is Said (or Sayed) Musa. This is a man who risked everything for his faith. And he is a hero of mine. Because Said knows something that we here in the West struggle to believe. Said knows (and knows it to the depths of his soul) that Christ is a greater treasure. Life, family, possessions, land are all negotiable. Christ is not.

As my BFG has been studying through Philippians, one of the more heavy and convicting portions of Paul’s letter is his personal testimony that comes in chapter 3. After strongly mocking and condemning the Judaizers, Paul begins to tear down the very thing that they trusted in; the very thing they found their identity in. Paul destroys confidence in the flesh. If anyone could boast in his accomplishments and his bloodline, it was Paul. Yet, we find him disdaining his accomplishments, his bloodline. We find him joyously throwing it all away, that he might gain Christ, that in the last day, Paul might present before the Father a righteousness that was not his own, but that was given to him in Christ. Paul knew the same thing Said knows. Christ is worth everything. In fact, if family, possessions, country or anything stand in the way of gaining Christ, they must be rejected. They are refuse. Dung. Waste.

When we refuse to risk it all, what we do is clutch onto a bag of crap when we’re being offered the world. We smear it all over our faces, wear it with pride. We yell the loudest that our crap smells the worst. What we need to do is take a shower and take out the trash. Why do we wallow in such filth? How is that we have convinced ourselves that this is good? Well, when all you see is people holding onto their bags of crap, comparing and contrasting the color, smell and texture, it’s easy to think this is normal. This is not normal. Boasting in our self is not the way it is supposed to be. The Church is supposed to be the place where this new reality, the true reality,  is displayed. And in the hard and dark places of the word, the Church is displaying it by standing firm with full courage.

After learning of Said’s release, we learned that there is another brother, Shoaib Assadullah, who faces the same fate from which Said was rescued. His crime is giving a Bible to another man. The man who received the Bible turned in Shoaib. He has refused to recant. He is holding out for something better than the bag of crap that’s been taken from him.

I wonder…would we, westerners, do the same?

~sdg