Leather Jacket Christianity

Rebels, all of them.

What Christians look like on the outside. Would you believe that they’re rebels?

To be a Christian, especially at this moment in history, is an active rebellion against what the world stands for. You’re pretty much some crazy punk with radical ideas standing on a soapbox except minus the blue hair and studded black boots. Every which way you turn, the popular topics of the age (abortion, homosexuality, gender identity, etc.) are uplifted and those who dare to speak out against it are silenced and told to kindly get with the times and stop holding on to their outdated Bibles and leave behind the old-fashioned notions of centuries past. Teachers are forbidden to discuss the idea of a sentient creator or even point out the mistakes and fallacies present in evolution. When children mention God or a Savior there are blaming fingers aimed at the parents for brainwashing.

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” – Psalm 2:1-3

In short, being a Christian is viewed as a curse.

The oppression of believers ranges anywhere from being attacked and murdered for your faith to nasty looks from people you call friends. Both hurt, just on different levels.

But it’s certainly not anything new.

“Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” – 1 John 3:13

Can’t say it much plainer than that. John was dipped in a vat of boiling oil because of the faith he had in Jesus, so I’m sure he was no stranger to the hatred against Christians.

Stephen was stoned to death. James was executed by the sword. Peter was crucified upside down. Polycarp was burned at the stake. Hundreds of Christians were brutually killed in the Coliseum for entertainment. Jesus himself was spit on both figuratively and literally by his peers and family before he was crucified. And this doesn’t even begin to enroach on the sobering number of those who have died only recently for their faith. The list goes on and on.

Rebels, every single one of them. Who, instead of denying Christ to save their lives, firmly held fast to their faith and crushed Satan’s head underneath their shoe.

As of right now, the United States enjoys a constantly teetering balance of religious freedom, but who knows if it will stay that way or if we soon will face similar challenges to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and other seriously persecuting areas. Already there is an atmosphere of “Oh my goodness, will these Christians just please be quiet?”

It can be tempting to give up when it comes to sharing your faith or even just acknowledging its existence, especially when the ridicule comes from those we trust and love. The devil is right there, per usual, telling you that giving in is the best possible option, that you are alone, that the pressure upon you is right and you are wrong, that God has left you to deal with the criticism and disgusted looks all by yourself.

And you know what we say to that?

No.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” – 1 John 4:4

There is no better reward than the one waiting for you in Heaven, so do not set up a tent of popularity on this earth when your true home is yet to come.

PASD (Post-Africa Stress Disorder)

Ever since returning, I’ve been restless at best, downright miserable at worst. I’ve been feeling this tug on my heart, like I’m homesick as I sit in the safety and comfort of my own room. Things that previously interested me seem unimportant and boring. The streets are empty. No one gives me thumbs up as I walk by, not that I’ve done much walking anyway. Everybody shows a shocking amount of skin. Kids look healthy and well-fed. I can talk to people without the fear that I’m viciously murdering their language by mispronouncing “nda” for the forty-sixth time, which is a strange thing to feel homesick about, but I do.

Simply put, I’m missing Africa, or at least what Africa represented. I had a job in Africa, and it was a fairly straightforward one: teach the kids. That was the one thing. That was all I had. When I woke up in the morning, that was my job. Yet in the return process that job number went up. Now, I’m a big sister who does school, practices music, finishes Confirmation homework, memorizes lines for the two plays I’m in, cleans the kitchen, renews library books, etc. All deeply enjoyable things, and I can’t complain about their difficulty because there is none. It’s a wonderful life to be sure.

But it’s not for me. If there’s one thing that Africa has helped me realize, it is that living my life out in the United States is not what God has planned for my life.

What frustrates me is that dropping your life isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’ve already ruled out pulling a Sherlock and faking my death or hiding myself in a suitcase en route to Malawi. Unfortunately, that’d be more likely to get me arrested than start me off on a mission. And, per usual, there’s that pesky Satan, who every darn time you attempt to launch yourself into action decides to be like the blankets in that one Calvin and Hobbes strip.

“You want to leave your comfy life? NICE TRY, SUCKER.”

Popping out of peace, financial security, and cheap pleasure is the path less traveled for a reason: getting on it (and staying on it) isn’t particularly easy. I know for a fact that I will struggle with it for the rest of my life, seeing as I haven’t even gotten on it yet. How does one go about something like this?

My first response is to look at the technical details. The immense cost of traveling, the organizations I would want to affiliate with, finding where my assistance would be most needed, what I can even do in situations I’m unfamiliar with, yadda yadda yadda. But my second response is to look in the Bible and ask God for what he wants me to do. The technicalities are a small fraction of a far bigger picture.

I worry and cry and beat myself over the head with questions and accusations and fear fervently wishing for the things that could be and stressing myself out over what to do, and all the while I’m forgetting that there’s a God by my side and a Bible in my hands that can answer everything.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

I have overcome the world.

Why am I stressing about a battle when the war has been won from the start? Why does my heart tremble in fear of my enemies when they have already been defeated? Why does the world frighten me when my God has overcome it?

Normally at the end of these posts I like to give some kind of closing sentence. A conclusion. An end to the rambling madness that happened above. But you can’t do that when the story isn’t finished. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. God isn’t finished with me and he won’t be until I’m dead. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to make a part two of this post. Something celebratory, even if it’s the minuscule victory of spending my Saturday morning helping people rather than sleeping in.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Prayer would be much appreciated.