Your Very Own Piece of the Gates of Hell
“Infidel” author and self-acknowledged Islam-born atheist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently wrote on Christian persecution in the Muslim world. Found on the Daily Beast website, Ali’s article may seem surprising. However, one of the reasons she has achieved such a high reputation globally is that her analysis seems to cut all ways. Her interest is for true tolerance—if we are going to advocate for religious freedom, it needs to be for everybody.
Ali coins the term “Christophobia” in response to the current politically correct war on Islamophobia in the West. She agrees that discrimination against Muslims is wrong, but asks why governments and the media are subsequently turning a blind eye to the intense persecution of the Church across the Muslim world. She proceeds to cite case after case in one nation after another where Christians are being murdered, raped, kidnapped, and so on by Muslim gangs and/or national governments.
Her stories are worth grieving over as brothers and sisters live and die in fear around the world, while we sit royally in our insulated, generally secure homes, worshiping openly in our churches. Such persecution is yet one more sin and atrocity in this fallen world calling for our collective attention, prayer and action.
Global persecution, human trafficking, political corruption, epidemics, famine, thirst, evangelism, the economy…the world’s problems continue unabated. It is truly impossible for one person, one family, one congregation to address all of them, yet we are called by Christ Himself to tackle them head on.
Implicit in His earthly ministry, in His great commission, and other teachings, we are to confront the gates of Hell in all of its forms. Piece of cake. Easily accomplished warming a pew while dozing through a three-point sermon brought to you by the letter “P”. As if.
The paralysis too many of us face is partially due to being overwhelmed by the size of the problems. (The other major factor is Demas’ sin—being too in love with this world. (II Tim 4:10).)
What has amazed me is watching when people see a problem and choose to attack it in whatever way seems open to them at the time. They ignore other issues, put their lives on hold, and lay claim to that piece of gatework. “This is mine to attack. I’ll not be dissuaded nor distracted until it has surrendered to the Cross.” Movements and ministries form around them, as does opposition, yet they persevere and overcome, bit by bit.
This is why the Church cannot be conceived as a building, or even an institution. It is the very hand of God moving via His Spirit in the hearts of billions of people, each assigned a section of the gate, faithfully tearing at it with those assigned with them. They are not distracted by another’s mission, rather calling encouragement from their own places, so that all may be mutually encouraged, working together rather than against one another. When their respective works bring them together at a joint or hinge, they combine forces until that is done, rejoice together and continue on as the Lord directs.
It is fine to curse the darkness as frustration peaks, but cursing does less than a persistent spiritual chisel. In “The Shawshank Redemption,” Dufresne succeeds in digging out of prison with a jeweler’s hammer and years of persistent patience. Our God has given us better tools. Do we have the persistent patience to wear down the enemy’s strongholds?
In offering career counseling to students, I try to help them find their passion—the one or two things that most easily invoke a strong response in their hearts, in joy or anger, and suggest they find a way to make that part of their vocation. The same holds true for one’s ministry. It doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to fire you up. Identify it, and let prayer fan the flames, pushing away quenching distractions. Once you find it, run towards it with your ears covered like Bunyan’s Pilgrim. You’ve found your piece of the gate. Now start tearing it down.
Lagniappe: New manuscripts of the New Testament have been uncovered, one likely from the FIRST century. Findings still appear to support that the New Testament we have is what was originally written. Imagine that—God makes sure His word is not corrupted. He must want us to know it.