Answering The Call is an international missions organization dedicated to reaching people in difficult to reach places.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Religion Kills

It has been said that there is nothing more dangerous than a religious man. The most vicious attacks are likely to come at the hands of the most religious. There is no life to be found in religion. Religion is form without power. Religion is man's attempt to reach God on his own merit or by his own formulas. Religion is at it's essence the expression of man’s ways; therefore, it is certain death.

As we visited the persecuted church in a particular part of India, I was reminded of Jesus’ teaching of this very concept. In John 16 He warns his disciples about things to come. He says, “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” About a year ago in this part of India some 500 believers were killed. One of the ancient Hindu god’s is Kali, known as the goddess of dissolution and destruction. After getting drunk on the blood of evil forces she went on a killing spree and began destroying everything in sight. Some believe that the only way to appease this goddess is to offer a blood sacrifice.

It is not beyond imagination that these extreme Hindus chased believers into the jungle burning their homes (thinking that this “service to god”) believing this would be a sacrifice that would appease the destructive forces of Kali.

There is nothing more dangerous than a religious man. His thinking and his ways are twisted and will always bring destruction, not only to himself, but also to those around him.

I saw a new expression of religion today as we visited encampments of Christians who now have no place to live since this persecution began. As we drove to their encampment we observed about 75 families who had all gathered around the steps of a Pentecostal church building that had somehow been spared in the carnage. The people were living in makeshift tents made out of scrap plastic they had found. Their condition was obviously desperate. We prayed and listened to their stories. There was a strong sense of desperation among them. This was true of every place we visited, but in this place hopelessness poured from their eyes darkening all who ventured close.

As we drove away rain began to fall. I thought of those we had just seen. I imagined them huddled under torn plastic tarps in an effort to stay dry, as well as keep the little food and possessions they had from contamination. It occurred to me that perhaps as the rains came they would be able to find refuge and shelter inside the church building. I surfaced this notion with our kind guide. He gently told me, in a very Indian way, that this would not be the case. I pushed a little further, wanting to understand this paradox. He explained that the church building would not be used as a place of refuge because they held to the belief that it was inappropriate to sleep in the house of God.

Is that the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard?

Religion always is.

I suppose it can never be known how many of these three or four hundred homeless people will die because of the thread of religion the enemy has sown among them. Certainly some will die in the unsanitary conditions that could be resolved by simply opening the church doors and sleeping inside.

This mantra is not just true in India, it is true all over the world. I wonder how many are huddled on the steps of churches in the United States unable to enter because of religion. I wonder how many of them will die.

The kingdom of God is peace, joy and righteousness. As I write this, there is a deep sense of thankfulness for salvation apart from religion. To be honest, it has been a slow process that I am not sure is even complete. My thankfulness around the processes causes me to long for the people in India to be saved out of religion and into the freedom of the most irreligious love the world has ever known, Jesus. It makes me long to see friends back home saved from the certain fate of religion.

God take us beyond religion. Grant us the ability to see you free from the restraints of religion. Let us not be shackled by man’s ways but rather that we could fall into your strong arms of love. Help us God, to love in the same way you do and no longer be religious persecutors. Show us our religious thinking that we are unaware of. God, don’t let us die this way because certainly we know, Religion Kills. Take us to a place where religion dies and Jesus comes alive.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Mom

The heart of a mom is an amazing thing to me. It is a work of God. I have watched it operate in Joy with our three children. I am amazed by the deep stirrings of love for our children that I sometimes sense in her. I am a Dad. I love my children, but it is not the same as a mom’s love. As our children have gotten older, one of them has even left her “poor ole father”, I have witnessed that a mom’s heart remains unchanged. I sort of understand it when it comes to babies but, what I did not understand was that same heart seems to beat for teenagers and even adult children.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. I was the recipient of such love. My mom projected to me those same deep stirrings of love. She was fiercely loyal. She saw my faults probably more clearly than anyone but this did not mean that others were free to comment on the faults she had long ago observed. There was nothing that was too good for her boys. A mom’s love is incredible in its scope.

I recently returned from India. One particular night I prayed with a mom. We saw a lot of joy in the midst of all the persecution in this region of India. This was not the case at this particular home with this particular mom. She was the last person we went to pray with. She was of small stature and by the appearance of the house she seemed to be just barely getting by. What I remember most were her eyes. There was a deep sadness in them. Her eyes and her posture reflected very little life. She hardly responded to our attempts at a traditional greeting. There was not even the attempt of a smile. Don’t misunderstand, she wasn’t hard, she was broken.

We went to pray with her because she had recently lost her son. He was killed in the uprising of the persecution last year. A demon possessed mob of Hindu worshippers paraded in the street in front of her house. As they marched things began to turn violent and the attack was on. The three hundred Christians in this village began to flee to the jungle. Miraculously most survived, but not this mom’s son. As he ran down the same street he had played on as a boy, he was shot in the back. He fell over dead and this mom’s world was broken. It has been a year now. Those who killed this mom’s son, as well as others, have never been brought to justice in Hindu courts. After a year this mom still sits in front of her house and looks down that same street with sad eyes.

As I travel the reality of persecution is so widespread that it has become almost institutional. In some circles the idea of martyrdom has become almost romanticized as warriors fading in a blaze of glory. For this mom it is institutional and certainly is not to be romanticized. It is simply sad. This mom’s heart, like the heart of my children’s mom and like my mom’s heart, is amazing in its depth and quite frankly beyond my comprehension. This mom is not looking for religious platitudes and sympathy is of little value, she just wants her boy back.

I told her the Bible says there is a time to grieve, implying that grief doesn’t last forever; but then again, I am not a mom so what do I know. I told her the Bible says that martyrs will rise first and reign with Jesus. I asked her to picture this, her son reigning with Jesus one day. I think it helped a little, but only a little. Outside of the Lord there is no balm for her soul. That is not just a religious platitude, it is reality.

I also promised her that I would share her story so that people would pray for her. This seemed the most helpful to her. So, will you pray for a mom in rural India with sad eyes who is missing her boy?