September 19, 2019
by Ashley Tilghman
I remember seeing a poster in middle school with a single fish swimming against the rest of a school, signifying the importance of standing apart from the crowd. This picture resonated with me, as I believe it has a spiritual application as well – living set apart from the rest of the world.
To bear the name “Christian” means we belong not to this world, but to Christ. We follow after Him and He makes us more and more like Himself. Our ultimate desire in life becomes wanting to please our Lord who gave up everything when He gave His life for us. This goal is in complete opposition to what the world pursues, looking to please their own selfish desires as a result of being driven by their sinful natures. Sometimes we as Christians feel pulled to live the same way, going with the crowd and gravitating towards things of the world. We are still human, and our flesh longs to be satisfied. But having the Holy Spirit inside us, we are able to resist this pull and live in a way that honors God. We are instructed in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
In the Middle East, Christians are a religious minority. Some are called “Christian” simply by the family they are born into, more of a cultural classification than religious identity. This identification is marked on a person’s ID and may determine which school they attend, job they can attain, or who they can marry. This makes it challenging to distinguish those who are Christian by name only and those who are Christian due to their relationship with Jesus Christ. I think the way to differentiate the two is for true Christians to live differently from the rest of the culture around them, meaning they are showing their love for God and love for the people around them. SAT-7 staff in the MENA live out their Christian worldview on the air every day – sometimes putting their own lives at risk.
It takes courage to live in a way that stands out from culture, swimming against the tide so to speak. This is especially true when you have the added level of persecution that is so prevalent in the Middle East. Yet the Lord promises to go with His people. He will never leave nor forsake them (Deut. 31:6). He will strengthen and protect them from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:3).
Pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and North Africa, that they would find courage to boldly live out their faith in a dark land. We can take heart in these words spoken to followers of Christ, “You are a chosen people, God’s special possession. Therefore, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)