Stop Making God “Safe”
Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church.”
Don’t let them make God safe!” These words of send-off for me at the Bombay airport were from an Indian Christian evangelist. He had a low opinion of Western churches. After visiting them he confided, “They have managed to turned a dangerous God into a safe one…instead of a God that burns with fury against hypocrisy, idolatry and injustice, they have a God that turns a blind eye to all our faults, just keeps on loving us with a disinterested air, and seems not to care whether we stand out for him or not.”
The persecuted never let us forget that knowing God should bring chaos, not safety, because God’s gospel is so subversive. The life of the Indian evangelist proves this point. He used to work as a river guide in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi. It was his job to row tourists around the river especially at sunrise so they could take pictures of the morning sun shining on the giant rows of temple steps, called ghats that hugged the river bank. His employer insisted he provide sexual services for the tourists who hired the boat, and he soon became a male prostitute.
A few years later he received the gospel as a result of a chance encounter with a tourist. After becoming a Christian he said, “I felt relief that I did not have to behave that way again. Suddenly a whole new set of choices opened up for me. But I was apprehensive too—the choices that pleased God would not please anyone else.” His employer had him beaten by thugs. But he refused to return to work as a prostitute. He was sacked and immediately had to leave town.
At first he went back to his family, but they were not happy to see him. His mother wailed, “We sold you so you could look after us in our old age, and now you are following a bad god who has made you refuse to provide for us.”
He became convicted that he must return to Varanasi and work to free all the other sex slaves. He began setting up a bank so that low paid workers could borrow at reasonable rates of interest, and not have to go to loan sharks that kept them in financial slavery. He said, “Jesus Christ had given me freedom, and now I had to fight for the freedom of other people just like me. I had to. Jesus makes us pure and sacred, and it is not right that his children should be bought and sold and used like cattle.” He has survived two assassination attempts. His wife had acid thrown over her by thugs employed by the leaders of the prostitution rackets. This man is driven by a love for a God that is determined to set his children free.
God has been made far too safe when we can attend churches and never be roused to do something about the challenge of the poor, the needy, the persecuted. God wants us to stand up and out against sin. He promised us that following Him would get us into a fight. The fight will come to us if only we realize how subversive His gospel really is. Let the persecuted help.