Seeing from Another Perspective
Last Saturday morning, I was listening to a three-year-old chapel message from Dallas Seminary as I fixed one of the sprinklers in my yard. Célestin Musekura was there from Rwanda doing his PhD and spoke during their global missions week. He leads the African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, growing out of the Rwandan genocide in the 90s. As he shared stories about how the genocide unfolded, it was clear that it did not start in 1994. That is when the rest of the world heard about the killing of what was later estimated to range from 500,000 – 1,000,000. It started at least four years before, as extremists in the country, began to emphasize ethnic divides between Hutus (the ruling party) and Tutsis. These are not the usual folks we think of when we use the term “extremists.” But they did what extremists do when they hate another culture: they dehumanize them by stoking fears – in this case, on the radio. Day-by-day it became easier for one to kill those they considered non-human. This was even more painful when you realize that most of these are cultures that speak the same language, intermarry, live next to each other, work sideby-side and go to church together.
What? Did I mistype that? You see these extremists were “Christians.”
Almost 89% of the country are Christians, with 26.2% being Evangelicals. Among the Hutus, who led the killing, 90% were Christians (28% Evangelicals). Among the Tutsis—who were involved in retribution killing months later—it was 95% (20% Evangelicals).1 Célestin said many in Rwanda were merely “baptized pagans.”
A couple days before I heard from Célestin, I was listening to the President of Asbury Seminary, Dr. Timothy Tennent, who served in India and has ministered extensively around the globe. His observation from a global perspective was simple and clear: “Christendom has the ability to produce vast numbers of nominal Christians. That’s what Christendom does best. It’s like a huge, nominal Christian machine.”
I began to wonder about the latest mass-shootings in the U.S. Are we doing much better than Rwanda? In the U.S. we are 77.5% Christian – 26.82% Evangelical.
We have always known that many people who go to church may not be “true believers.” You cannot always determine it by “their fruit.” After hearing from Dr. Musekura I read in the L.A. Times about a church in California that praised the shooting and killing of 50 in the gay bar in Orlando. Their website says: “No sodomite (homosexual) will be allowed to attend or join xyz (independent) Baptist Church.”
Did you see that? Not even attend! I wonder if they will let in an adulterer?
If those are the kinds of Christians we have, no wonder the world is confused by our message. It makes you ask the questions: What are believers from the U.S. or elsewhere taking around the globe? What are we producing?
Before this, I was preparing for a presentation about refugee work and how we can reach out to those among us. I looked again at 1 Kings 8, where Solomon prays to dedicate the temple. He prays a lot of profound, wise prayers for the people and in worship—read it again! In verse 41 he turns to the foreigner “who does not belong to your people.” At this point in the biblical story, Israel’s kingdom is at its height. The temple was just completed. Do you remember what Solomon prays?
He deeply desires that these nonIsraelites “will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm….” His prayer may have been lost in the sad history that followed and the ethnocentrism we see growing in the gospels. But note, he is praying for exactly what happened to you and me as the gospel flowed from Israel to us.
What would happen if we prayed and acted accordingly… all over the world? What would happen to any extremists if even they were treated lovingly? I pray that all true disciples of Jesus will follow His most basic summary of the OT Law: Love God and love your neighbor. That is the command…no matter what background that neighbor is from.