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Can You Believe We Were Born In America?

Considering what has taken place in Afghanistan this past week, these verses in Psalm 79 were almost too fitting from my reading the other day:


"Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?' Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes! Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!" (Psalm 79:10-11)


It's not a new reality for our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East to live in a more difficult context than here in the US. But with the Taliban fully taking over the nation of Afghanistan, tones have quickly changed for the worse.


The Taliban's extreme interpretation of Islamic belief is fiercely set against Christianity. Refusal for Afghan Christians to transition back to Islam will likely result in death. It's no wonder why families are fleeing homes and heading for the hills. The Taliban's swift rise to power is not good news for anyone involved, Christian or not. These things should sober our understanding of persecution and suffering.


Of All The Places To Be Born


Take for example the pandemic. My wife and I had recently caught wind of how other countries were handling it almost a year and a half since its abrupt arrival in March of 2020. Where the US has tip-toed on fully opening up, many countries are still in disarray. This led to my wife pondering our fortunate odds by asking:


"Can you believe we were born in America?"


We live in a land of abundance, and yet, ironically, where pleasure, freedom, and choice are abundant, there is no lack of complaining and dissatisfaction. We live in a land of dreams, and if we aren't careful, we can easily forget that reality. Instead of living in gratitude, we can slip into entitlement and snobbery.


Christians have particularly benefited from the religious freedom found here. This is a characteristic of our land that not many share, at least not nearly in the same capacity as we do. As the American church, we do not face persecution as much as we face the daunting foe of "cultural Christianity." Most of our efforts in the church stateside are trying to call our fellow brothers and sisters to a higher form of devotion which requires intentional loss in a sea of unintentional comfort and gain.


What Persecution Is And Isn’t


In 2020, and perhaps even still today as we attempt to navigate our way out of this pandemic, some believed the Christian church was being targeted. Churches being closed, masks mandated... it was considered unthinkable. I understand why some felt this way. I do. But I can't help but think that this was a side-effect of being steeped in our fortuitous lifestyle rather than having the mind of Christ.


Hear me out, 2020 was hard for many reasons, and I believe we will feel the fallout of that year for years to come. But as it relates to Christians, we need to remember how good we have it, and still do, despite our current irritations.


We need to be clear; persecution is not having to wear a mask in a global pandemic nor is it having to stay home for a time. Persecution is not managing minor setbacks or frustrating hindrances.


Persecution is being hunted.

Persecution is being killed.

Persecution is suffering, even to the point of shedding blood.

Persecution is having your belongings plundered.

Persecution is what our Afghan brothers and sisters are trying to survive at this moment.


Hebrews 11 describes it as such, "Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Those last few words have become reality for those in Afghanistan.


How Bad Do We Have It?


American Christianity can be characterized by what the writer of Hebrews said a few verses later, "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Hebrews 12:3-4).


For many of us (not all) we have not lost much in our following of Jesus. Perhaps people view us differently. Maybe our relationships got a bit more complicated. But for the most part, we still have great lives and are free to be Christians in meaningful ways. We can express our allegiance to King Jesus with minimal pushback. This is especially clear when thinking of the state of the Afghan church.


Yes, America is heading towards a post-Christian culture where the views and convictions of orthodox Christianity are seen as dangerous, harmful, and less-than-ideal. But we likely have a long ways to go before things look like the Middle East. What my encouragement out of this article would be is to thank God for the blessing of being in a place like the United States. There are billions of people who did not hit the jackpot in their country of origin — but you did. By luck? No, by providence,


"And he [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place," (Acts 17:26).


Before you were born, God determined you would live and dwell on American soil with all her privileges and perks. That shouldn't lead to some sense of misplaced guilt, it should lead to deep gratitude and awe of the goodness of God.


As our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan endure what's to come, let us follow the call of the writer of Hebrews:


"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (Hebrews 13:3).


I encourage you to stay up to date with how you can be praying for Afghan Christians. There are plenty of insightful articles detailing their stories and needs. You can find a couple linked below I came across just today.


I end with my wife's profound question once more,


Can you believe we were born in America?


 

Afghan Pastors Ask For Prayer


How Afghan Pastors Reflect on God’s Sovereignty