What I have learnt from Christians while living in a non-Christian Country
By Neels – who lived, worked and ministered in a Hindu dominated country for more than 12 years.
Have you noticed how because we grow up in a “Christian” nation, we embrace certain beliefs about society and about our rights? We often perceive “our nation”, “our group” or “our people” as God’s “chosen people” or the “nation of God.” With this comes the conclusion that, if others do not support our values and do not respect the way we act, then they do not respect God. They automatically become God’s enemy.
When political power is in the hands of so-called Christians, it develops the mindset that “we as Christians are in control.” Such a scenario is seen as being more beneficial for us. We live with the assumption that we are in God’s perfect will and therefore expect God’s blessings. With this comes a further assumption that the church is healthy and even growing.
However, the fact that professing Christians are “in control” of the political platform does not necessarily mean that Christ is building His church. The opposite is often true as church history has taught us over the centuries. If we look at the example of South Africa it is also a sad reminder that Christ was not always the leader of our leaders.
What we often take for granted as Christians in a “Christian” country is not automatically the norm for Christians all over the world. I believe, if I understand Scripture correctly and see the direction that many governments are taking, that what other Christians experience globally may well become the “new normal” for followers of Christ in the years to come.
What is normal in non-Christian Countries?
- You have no privileges as a Christian
- You are not respected as a believer, much less a pastor or leader.
- Your opinions and biblical values do not count.
- You are the one that act against the values of your society.
- You are an outsider.
- You are the one being picked on for being different.
I can go on and on.
What are the things that happen to Christians in these countries?
- You are ridiculed for taking a stand for what you believe.
- You get discriminated against
- You are chased out of government building and told to come back the next day.
- Your children are marginalised at school.
- You sometimes get thrown out of your house by the community or people refuse to support your business and sometimes even burn your shop. You lose everything and have no structure of support or platform to launch a complaint.
- You might even be beaten or killed.
I can go on and on.
What is a “normal” Christian’s reaction in a Christian country?
- I have rights.
- I have the right to retaliate.
- I have the means to take anyone to court.
- I will get “my group” together and we will sort you out.
- Because it’s my right I will make a scene in the community, on social media and wherever I can.
- I will even take up arms and do what is necessary to stand on my rights.
- This is the country that God has given me as “my nation”, “my group” or “my people” and I will defend it no matter what.
I can go on.
What I have learned from believers in other countries and how it challenged my behaviour
- They do not assume that they have rights.
- They will only stand up for their rights as an opportunity to reflect the love of Christ.
- They do not hold on to their “nation”, “group” or “people” as their source of security or identity.
- They understand that they belong to a new nation – God’s people from every nation
- When they are humiliated, ridiculed and discriminated against, they act so differently. They do not retaliate.
- When they have to do bureaucratic work and visit government departments and find themselves ignored or sent around, they pray, asking God for favour and guidance.
- When they are asked for bribes to receive something that is illegal, they refuse – even at their own expense.
- When money is extorted from them to receive the most basic of services – like getting a municipal connection – they will pay but explain to the person that it’s not right but pray that God may bless them anyway.
- When thrown out of their homes or shops they do not fight back or swear and curse.
- When beaten or attacked and confronted about their belief they share the hope that they have in Christ
Why do they act so differently from what I was used to? What could possibly be the reason? Could it be that they take the word of God more seriously than I do and that I take for granted what I hear/read every day? Can it be that they do not fall back on their cultural values because they know that it is not built on the Word of God? Can it be that I came to believe that my cultural values are built on Christian values (though some might be, but most are not) and therefore I trust what comes natural to us as a group, more than the Word of God? Do I value my culture more than the Word of God?
Secular culture says: “Happy are the rich—those who die with the most toys – for that makes life worthwhile.” But Jesus says: “Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness because you will truly be satisfied.”
Society’s pundits say: “Happy are you who get even, for this is a mean world.” But the Lord of all says: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
The cultural elite says: “Happy are you when you eliminate godly standards so that you can live your own defined truth.”
The Messiah says: “Blessed are you who are persecuted because of righteousness, for yours is the Kingdom of heaven.”
So, what are some of the scriptures that I saw my Christian friends take more seriously than I did?
THE BEATITUDES (MATHEW 5:1-12)
(Definition – If you are extraordinarily happy, you might describe what you are feeling as a beatitude. The noun beatitude refers to a state of great joy. Being blessed, or at least feeling blessed, is often linked to beatitude).
Then Jesus said:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
BUT I TELL YOU…(MATHEW 5:39-39)
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
…THAT YOU MAY BE SONS OF YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN …(MATHEW 5:43-45)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;
NOT SO WITH YOU…(MARK 10:41-45)
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
FOR EVERYONE WHO EXALTS HIMSELF…(LUKE 14:11 )
11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.
…WITH GENTLENESS AND RESPECT…(1 PETER 3:15-16)
15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
WHAT IS LIFE ALL ABOUT? (PHILIPPIANS 1:21)
21 For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
WHY? (2 CORINTHIANS 5:14)
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
SAVE YOUR LIFE!!! (LUKE 9:24)
24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
…BECOMING GREATER…? (JOHN 3:30)
30 “He must become greater; I must become less.”
These are but a few scriptures that those that live as minorities in non-Christian countries take more seriously than I do. They bet their lives on these scriptures and trust wholly that it is true. They do not obey when and if it suits them, they simply obey. 1 Peter 3:15 says “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” May this be true of us and may we truly learn to be ready to lead counter-cultural lives for the glory of our Lord.