Several years ago Dr. Thomas Grams made a fatal decision. He closed up his successful dental practice in Durango, CO and began providing dental care for children in Afghanistan and Nepal. Last week he and nine humanitarian colleagues were murdered by members the Taliban in Badakhshan, Afghanistan.
Grams and his team were true heros. We toss the word “hero” around way too easily today, especially in sports. But they gave their lives for something bigger than themselves. They knew the risks and faced them and paid a price for what they believed. I can only hope that their courage and selflessness is contangious and that I become fully exposed.
The tragic loss of their lives also made me wonder: What pushes people to make such difficult, selfless decisions? Though each of the ten was an individual and made his or her choice for individual reasons, faith in God played a role for many of them.
Like Nehemiah, from today’s reading, many on the International Assistance Mission team put themselves in danger in response to God showing them a need.
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
1 Corinthians 7:1-24
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Nehemiah had a cushy job. He was trusted and respected by King Artaxerxes, the most powerful man in the world at that time. Nehemiah lived in the palace, dressed well, had a top-notch education, ate the best foods, and drank the best wine. He was the cup-bearer, which meant Nehemiah served the king his wine, making sure the wine was not poisoned.
Why would he give all that up to go before the king and ask for an extended leave of absence to travel to the ruined city of Jerusalem and face possible death? Jerusalem was the bad-lands. The people living there were either oppressed or were the oppressors, lawless, violent, willing to kill, rob, and go to war to take what they needed.
When Nehemiah heard the news about the need of his people in Jerusalem, he experienced a discomfort that even all the money and power of Artexerxes could not deflect. God revealed to him that those “who survived the exile are in trouble and disgrace.” Nehemiah wept because the people were living in such poverty and hostility. And the temple, the place that once spoke of a loving, powerful God, lay in ruins.
Why did Nehemiah go? Because God showed Nehemiah a need and he responded with a prayer and then a plan to do something about it.
So too did Dr. Thomas Grams. So too can we. And we need not travel to Jerusalem or Afghanistan. Look over your backyard fence; visit a local school; listen to your co-workers and friends. There are needs all around us.
Is it possible that, as with Nehemiah, when we notice these needs, it is God’s nudge for us to pray and plan so that we may do something about it?
“Blessed are they who mourn,” said Jesus. “For they will be comforted.”
What if part of what Jesus meant by this is that, though our hearts may break because of what we have been through ourselves or when we see the pain of others, comfort comes through following God to do something about that pain.
I lost my father at age eleven. In some ways I have mourned ever since. And when I see or hear of fatherless children, my heart breaks.
Then recently God stirred my heart anew over fatherlessness and I began to pray. I shared this with Mike Klassen (my co-pastor and co-blogger) and he said he felt God calling him to do something about this as well. We prayed together and God formed in us a plan to launch a mentoring organization for fatherless young men at our local high school. We’ll keep you posted as to what God does with this vision.
But Mike and I are not facing death and danger as did the International Assistance Mission team nor Nehemiah. We are simply responding to a need God brought to our attention.
You can do the same. Will it cost us our lives?
I hope so.
P.S. Let’s pray for the families of the ten who were murdered. They must be in such pain.
God, please comfort and bring hope. Let your Holy Spirit fill in every gap and every tear. Surround them with strong, kind, grace-filled people. Walk with them. Answer their questions, if answers will heal and help. Bring justice as only a merciful God can. Let them, and us, know the real you through this. Please don’t let this vilolence begat more vilolence.
I know that anytime people who claim to represent God rain-down hate and vilolence, it breaks God’s heart. It also makes me ask him why he lets people like that claim his name and his favor. But then, it seems to me, that the question ricochets back to me. Why do I tolerate it?
I won’t any longer. Sharia law is wrong. Executing people in the name of God because they don’t believe what you beleive is wrong. We who believe in a God of mercy and love, the God who, rather than snuff out our lives, gave his life in Jesus, will not seek retribution, but we will not stand silent in the name of diversity or tolerance.
- What do these for passages share in common?
- What most breaks your heart?
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