Friday, March 21, 2008

Self-gratification or God's glory?

Ziya Meral is a Turkish Christian, a convert from Islam.

His recent article in Christianity Today, (which I encountered via the Anglicans Ablaze site in my Useful Links) is a challenging read. In North America, "carrying the cross" can be little more than giving up chocolate for Lent. Consider these thoughts from a persecuted Christian, and read his whole article (4 pages):

...[Western] answers point to self-gratification as the ultimate goal of life. This is parallel to our modern conceptions of the good life, for which the ultimate end is self-satisfaction and glorification (although self-discipline was long ago discarded as a means to that end).

At this point, the incapacity of the modern church to reconcile the suffering of the global church with the God of love is evident. But, our highest good is not a problem-free life; it is to be like the Son...

...The greatest glory Jesus brought to God was not when he walked on the water or prayed for long hours, but when he cried in agony in the garden of Gethsemane and still continued to follow God's will, even though it meant isolation, darkness, and the silence of God. Thus, we know that when everything around us fails, when we are destroyed and abandoned, our tears, blood, and dead corpses are the greatest worship songs we have ever sung...

...The promise of sharing his resurrection and glory gives us a great hope: that our sacrifices are not in vain and do not go unnoticed, even though no other human being nor the global church may know or care about what we are going through, even though we may not see any apparent rhyme or reason in our suffering now...

...We do know where God is in the midst of persecution. He is there, right with us, in us. He is present through our lives, words, pain, and deaths. He has not forgotten us or turned away his face from us. He holds back his power so that we can accomplish his work, so that our sacrifices can be sources of life and healing to the world. He is not distant from our pain; he is in prison with us, he is naked, he is beaten, he is raped, and he is killed! We know that he is not quiet, but is speaking powerfully through the lives, suffering, and death of his children.

As Christ prayed in agony in the garden during that dark night, he knew that he had to carry on his calling even though it would cost him his life. He knew that it was the only way to bring life. He knew that his brutal death would glorify God. History changed during that night, even before the cross. It changed when the Son of God chose to not give up, to hold firm to God's calling and promises, even though it meant bearing the silence of God.

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