The latest crisis in Iraq has me wanting to reaffirm the essence of what defines me. “i am a Christian.” I am humbled by brothers and sisters taking a stand for our Lord where the cost of identifying with Jesus is certain death. This arabic letter is being placed on Christian homes and businesses in Mosul so terrorists know where to find the Christians. It is the first letter of the word “Nazarene” Associated with Jesus the Nazarene means certain death for anyone associated with the terrorist group ISIS. Death, however, is precisely what we signed up for when we chose to follow Jesus.
I know it no longer in vogue in America to call oneself a Christian. I heard that up to 85 percent of millennials are no longer describing themselves as Christian. Many that do identify as Christians are leaving the church. I also embrace the local church. I still believe that the local church is the hope of the world. Calling oneself a Christian without being a part of a church is like claiming one is an arm but not part of a body. We are the ekklesia-the called out ones. God always calls us to be a people not a person.
I know that it is popular to bring up Christian atrocities such as the Crusades as a way to distance oneself from Christianity. The problem with examples like this is they don’t express the views of our founder. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek and and not to retaliate when attacked. Everyone that calls themselves Christians aren’t Christians. The Crusades no more reflect true Christianity than the Westboro Baptist Church reflects what it means to be Baptist.
I see Jesus in our Iraqi brothers and sisters when they choose death or fleeing for their lives rather than giving up their faith in Jesus. When you see these beheadings in Iraq do not fear for the extinction of Christianity in that country. Christianity is at its best when its back is against the wall. Communist China which claims not to allow Christianity is where the greatest revival in the world is happening today.
I am a Christian but being a Christian is not easy. I was warned by my father who chose that God awful text to preach for my ordination, “I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves.” And the song he sang over me was even worse: So Sent I You.
So send I you to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing-
So send I you to toil for Me alone.
So send I you to bind the bruised and broken,
O’er wand’ring souls to work, to weep, to wake,
To bear the burdens of a world aweary-
So send I you to suffer for My sake.
So send I you to loneliness and longing,
With heart ahung’ring for the loved and known,
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one-
So send I you to know My love alone.
So send I you to leave your life’s ambition,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labor long, and love where men revile you-
So send I you to lose your life in Mine.
So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see,
To spend, tho’ it be blood, to spend and spare not-
So send I you to taste of Calvary.
Its been 25 years since that song and sermon and it means more to me now than ever. I love Jesus. I have no regrets. So to a watching world I say again, “I am a Christian!” I’m glad to belong to the movement that believes that the power of love is greater than the power of hatred. All these years later, I would choose Jesus all over again!