Monday, March 30, 2009
Whom shall we serve?
The last words that Pastor Kantheswar Digal ever spoke to his loved ones were "Nothing will happen to me. They know and respect me. Nobody will harm me." He said these words undoubtedly, to calm the fears of his family, then he left to check on the condition of his home in the troubled rural Indian state of Orrisa.
As he traveled back to his small village of Sankarakhole, the bus he was riding on was stopped by radical Hindus.
Singled out as a believer in the one true God, he was forcibly dragged from his seat and out onto the road. In the humid, dusty afternoon, the radical Hindus broke both of his legs, and began to torture the pastor of more than 50 years. They demanded that he give up his Christian faith and become a Hindu.
Pastor Digal is quoted as saying ""I am a strong believer in Jesus Christ, You may kill me but I will never become Hindu."
18 men participated in torturing this martyr for the faith. Enraged at his words and his unwaivering faithfulness to the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, they tied his hands and his legs and beat him.
They burned his face.
They broke bones all over his body.
They stripped him of everything but his t-shirt.
As a final detestable act, they pitched his limp and lifeless body into the river where it floated for days.
Meanwhile, Indian authorities arrested Christians for "forcible conversion" siding, it seems, with the very perpetrators of the incident, and not with the victims.
As Christians we are warned repeatedly that persecution will come into our lives, and we are to remain faithful and to count it as joy to suffer for the Gospel.
In the face of persecution Pastor Kantheswar Digal acted in the way all followers of Jesus would hope to act. He followed God through unimaginable suffering, through shocking acts of violence, and ultimately into the arms of his Savior.
As John so aptly recorded in the gospel of the same name, "I am is the true vine and ye are the branches."
As indwelt, born again believers, Gods spirit is constantly at work in us, sustaining us, working with us, remaking us and reshaping our very souls to look more and more like Jesus.
To that end we are to let Christs love shine into a dark world and to show the love of Christ to those whom we meet, believer and non. We are to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
The mysteries of God seem to turn on the very fact that believers such as Pastor Digal choose to follow this indwelt spirit of God even in the face of unspeakable horror. Pastor Digal lived out the phrase that I first heard Chuck Missler mention, "God doesnt want to be #1 in your life, He wants to be first on a list of 1."
Jesus himself even said "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
With this backdrop in our minds let us turn to a piece of scripture that is lately been somewhat maligned by parties somewhat less interested in manifesting the Word of God in truth and deed.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." Paul of Tarsus, in his letter to the Romans.
As KSLA Shreveport reporter Jeff Ferrell found out, apparently the government has a vested interest in pulling good bible believing christians towards the interpretation of the aforementioned scripture-turned-unchecked-mandate-for-power. 'Pastors'* who are willing to 'play ball' are guaranteed first access to medical assistance, vaccines, and food for themselves and their family in the event of a natural disaster in return for helping to calm the public, and they use Romans 13 as their tool to manipulate.
As 'pastor' and clergy response chaplain Dr. Durrell Tuberville explains "...The government's established by the Lord, you know, and thats what we believe in the Christian faith, and thats what's stated in the scripture."
Despite 'pastor' Tuberville's likely unpropitious interpretation of Brother Paul's words, one would have a hard time finding evidence for that viewpoint anywhere else in the bible, assuming of course those willing to sell out God for c rations and a few aspirin had actually opened their bibles.
Indeed, the heros of both the Old and New Testament seem to repeatedly follow God and his commands in direct disobedience to the ruling authorites so often it at times seems standard operating procedure to those willing to follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
Acts records "Peter and the other apostles answered and said 'We ought to obey God rather than men.' "
In the book of Daniel, A law is passed that under penalty of death a golden image must be worshipped. In direct disobedience to the authorites, Meshach, Shadrack, and Abednego disobey the supreme potentate of the land. In direct defiance of the king, the law and earthly authority, they chose to obey the Lord, even in the face of death.
Later in that same book Daniel hears of a law commanding that under penalty of death the King must be worshipped only for thirty days, and no other God. The scripture seems to indicate that Daniel goes so far as to go directly to his house and worship the Lord, with the windows open, three times a day, as if the very breaking of the law was what Daniel was trying to accomplish.
Moses, no stranger to breaking laws, killed an egyptian trying to rescue his countrymen. Even his entrance into the house of pharoah as a young orphan was unlawful, as all male Jews were to be put to death.
Perhaps our best example of following God is Jesus, who repeatedly chastised the legalists of his day for making a mockery of the Law of Moses and using it for their purely selfish ends.
In a taste of what may be to come, the federal government seems to be intent on demonizing those with whom it disagrees with, if the recent release of the Missouri State police "MIAC" report is any indication. It states that anyone who is anti-abortion, pro-constitution, a supporter of Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, or Bob Barr, should be considered a potential terrorist.
As the tempo and tenor of the war on terror mutates to targeting the homefront (perhaps its intended victim all along?...) we, as followers of the Lord need to seriously think about the example our brother in the Lord (and truthfully, I feel slightly sheepish using that term my respect is so great.) Pastor Kansthewar Digal has set before us.
Pray that it does not, but if and when the time comes to choose to obey God or to choose to obey the principalites and powers of this world, I pray and hope that each Christian will keep the eye firmly fixed on the prize and run the race to his or her fullest. I hope that they can recall the stories of Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, and their contemporary, Daniel. I hope we will remember the quote of Polycarp, who, faced with being burned alive for not burning incense to the state sanctioned gods of Rome, said "Eighty and six years I have served him, How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? Bring forth what thou will." I hope we will all exhibit the unwaivering commitment to the law and statutes of God, and not the 'cosmokratori.' of the earth.
*Authors note. I cant escape the feeling I am cheapening the memory of pastor Kantheswar Digal by using the same moniker for both he and Durrel Tuberville. In keeping with the admonishments in the book of Ezekiel, I therefore seek to separate the two by using quotations marks.