Friday, October 10, 2008

Middle East Experience

I recently got back from a trip to Jordan and Egypt.  We had 3 objectives.  1. To explore what God was doing in the Middle East, 2. Meet up with a CC St. Pete sponsored missionary working in the Middle East (name withheld because of the nature of working in this part of the world) and get more familiar with their work and lastly expose a member of our church with a calling to the Middle East to what is going on (and to participate in ministry opportunities while we were there). 

Many people are asking how things went and what I learned.  So, we'll start at the beginning, some of the stuff discussed is sensitive, so some specifics will be "veiled".  Shockingly, around the time we got to Jordan, a woman was stoned to death with her children because she converted to Christianity.  I have several thoughts on this.  One, obviously this is a horrible event that almost seems surreal.  It is almost unimaginable that this stuff still happens in the 21st century! And it is sobering to know what people without Jesus are capable of.  I don't think we fully comprehend in the west the threat of orthodox Islam.  This is normal behavior in most of the Middle Eastern world.  The second thought is that of LAW.  A person who converts is to be considered anathema. It is the duty of the family to kill the person who leaves Islam.  Additionally, you didn't have to go very far to see the effects of law in Islam.  The women in the full birka with just a simple slit exposing the eyes, the mandatory prayer times, etc. all speak of impersonal ties to an unknowable, uninterested God.  Rules really sum up the Muslim relationship with Allah. 

A friend recently commented that the reason Islam is growing is two fold: 1. Muslim birth rate is way higher than in the west so for example, every year, Egypt's population of 77 million grows by 1 million because of birth rate increase.  2. Because people want structure/parameters/rules in their life.  They want to know how to make sense out of living in this crazy world and even strange or deceptive rules provide this.  Our human tendency is to embrace rules/legalism because it makes us feel like we are "doing" something to reach heaven.  People don't want grace, they want rules, the law. But… as we know, it is impossible to live by the law because we can never live a perfect life (Rom. 3:23).  One thing that was ironic to me was to walk the streets of Amman, Jordan, and see the woman in their "penguin" like birkas (the full covering with tiny eye slits) that could make any womanly figure look like a square block or a linebacker, and the more contemporary Muslim girls in their veils and very tight fitting, fashionable attire (also fully clothed but also not very modest).  Both were conforming to the letter of the law in terms of being covered up, however, both miss the spirit behind the law and that is a heart matter.  Doing something out of obligation versus something out of love.  The problem is that "When a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation" Romans 4:4 But rather, lets have the same heart as Enoch- Hebrews 11:5 For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.  Is that our heart? To please God, by faith? To love God and seek to please him? Or is it out of duty or law? More to come tomorrow…. 

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