Gordon Maxwell, a missionary to India, tells the story that when he asked a Hindi scholar to teach him the language, the scholar replied: “No Sahib, I will not teach you my language. You would make me a Christian.” Gordon Maxwell replied, “You misunderstand me. I am simply asking you to teach me your language.” Again the scholar responded, “No, Sahib, I will not teach you. No man can live with you and not become a Christian.”
Witnessing Christ has now become the most significant challenge for believers. According to Open Doors report, around the world, 16 Christians are killed each day, on average. That’s nearly 500 Christians every month. Are the followers of Jesus Christ misunderstood? Christianity has always been a peace-loving and peace sharing religion. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ Matthew 5:9. When Jesus came into this world as a prince of peace, King Herod misunderstood Him and thought He was the contender of his throne. To save his position and empire, he killed thousands of innocent children. But when Jesus grew up, He was never seen as a threat to the Roman empire. When Jesus stood before the Pilate, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man…” (Matthew 27:19). If the Roman empire had any proof against Jesus, Pilate would have never said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24).
On the other hand, Pharisees also misunderstood Him. They thought Jesus was trying to condemn Jewish religion and was interested in setting up a new religion. He would have escaped death on the cross and created His earthly empire if it were so. Sadly, the Pharisees lost the vision of God’s Kingdom and Israelites had to face the brunt. Instead of taking the spiritual needs of the people, they were busy condemning people by misinterpreting the laws. Jesus exposed the evil practices of Pharisees, which they were doing under the garb of religion. Jesus focused on the Kingdom of God as he used to preach. He explained the more profound and mysterious things of God’s Kingdom in a significantly simpler form with the help of the parables. Sermon on the mount, as liked by many people, including the world’s most outstanding leaders, unlocks God’s desire for His people as summarized in Mathew 5:48, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ Pharisees got threatened with Jesus’ popularity. Instead of believing God sent Christ, they used irreligious and unethical means to assassinate Him. Despite their ill behaviour, the love of Jesus was expressed on the cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He knew that they could not comprehend the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
Interestingly, Judaism still exists, but the number of followers of Christ is increasing every day. The gospel has power, and it transforms people into a new humanity. James, one of the disciples of Jesus, gave beautiful meaning to religion. He writes, ‘religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (James 1:27). How is it possible? It is through God’s love. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love in our hearts, and through this love, we can witness God’s truth and love in this world. Mother Teresa, known as the ‘wellspring of compassion’ writes in her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, “our purpose is to take God and his love to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of their ethnic origin or the faith they profess.” As ‘light of the world’, ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘aroma of Christ’, believers are to be proactive in witnessing the love of Christ to the whole world. We should not be scared of anyone because the one in us is greater than the one in this world. When we walk with God, we leave behind a sweet fragrance that can inspire others to follow. During this Lenten season, let us affirm to continue focusing on God’s call laid as laid in the Great Commission and be a faithful witness. In Isaiah 43:10, the Lord says, “You are My witnesses.”
Rev. Dr Samuel Richmond