On Sunday, 23 May 1993, in Faith is Purified in Fire … Through the Cross, Saint Pope John Paul II declared to a group of Italian youth, in Arezzo, Italy, “Faith, dear ones, is like gold: it is purified in fire. To be authentic, it must pass through the Cross of Christ (1 Peter 1: 7).”
His Holiness also stated: “How can we be authentic Christians in a world that rejects Christ? How can we live our faith in an environment that is hostile to Christ or, worse, that alludes itself with a sense of over security without Christ? Being a Christian today is not easy. We must go against the current.”
Amen and Amen!
Then, I started to reflect. “How can Christians become authentically Christian when they’re surrounded by ‘Christians’ who, often and obliviously, signal anti-Christian sentiments, i.e., ‘holier than thou’ judgements of others; intolerance; ignorance and arrogance.”
Two Palestinian Christians, leaders of the Bethlehem Bible College, located not far from modern-day Samaria visited the United States and wanted to share their stories to 450 local pastors at a local church in the middle of town. These Christians – Palestinians – walked in the footsteps of Jesus, not just in Israel-Palestine, but wherever God sent them. Only one pastor signed up to meet them. The rest shouted in unison a thundering sound of silence.
I can assure you that if you’re coming to the Middle East, the local Christians will go out of their way to make you feel at home. Your presence will become a feast with lots of food and drink. That’s how Christians treat other Christians in Iraq, Jordan, Iran, Israel-Palestine … all over the Middle East. I know. I’ve been their guest in all of these countries, and more. Iranians and Iraqis, especially, love to feed; like seven times a day … unreal!!!
We are all kings with one eye in the land of the blind. And, the least of us sometimes see and whisper, “the king wears no clothes.” No king knows everything. God entitles everyone to his or her own opinions. But God abhors ignorance that stems from arrogance. We’re created to think, to reason with God and each other. Rather than ‘either my way or the highway,’ God wants us to traverse on the humiliating path of the cross, the road toward humility. Faith is Purified in Fire … Through the Cross!
“Help make America humble again.” Humiliation precedes humility. Guide America back on the road toward greatness. Seek God’s voice. Listen! Behold how the 400,000 churches in the United States can and will help make America triumph again. Should the Church remain stuck in its ruts? That’s a question each pastor must grapple with God.
“Prayer is not only speaking but, above all, listening” (Mark 9: 7). (*Page xiii; Kindle Locations 75-76). Let’s sow seeds of change and Revere the stranger.
With every good wish to you, I am
Building the Bridge, The Hague
Abraham A. van Kempen
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