Whose Faith Follow

I watched an Israeli movie yesterday afternoon called "For My Father." It was the story of a young Arab man who straps on a bomb and walks into a market in Tel Aviv to blow up himself and kill many Israelis in the process, only the detonator malfunctions. He has the option of having his handlers detonate him by remote control or trying to fix the detonator on his own. He chooses the latter, and ends up having to spend time getting to know the different people he is sacrificing his life to kill. In the process, we also come to discover why he has chosen to become a suicide bomber. What was interesting and moving for me in watching this movie was how this young man, sort of an agnostic Muslim, prayed each time he prepared to blow himself up, and yet lived in such despair all the while believing that somehow his sacrifice would improve the lot of his family. All the people he connected with had such sad lives, and the religious Jews depicted in the film made people's lives miserable (and did not seem so happy themselves).

I went from that movie to church and heard Pastor Scibelli preach about following the Star, and my heart was so burdened for the Jews and the Muslims of the world who are following the wrong stars. (It is interesting to me that both the Israeli and the flags of many Muslim countries feature stars, and yet they do not recognize the Bright and Morning Star of Christ as God the Son and the Son of God.) I remember being in Israel almost thirty years ago now, and spending time with both Israelis and Arabs living in the country, and their virtual atheism while cloaking themselves in their religions. To them, their religion was an outer identity, a set of rites and rules to adhere to or to flout, a plan of things for men to do to get to heaven (if one believes in heaven) - It was not a source of life.

I sometimes am afraid that our country has headed in the same direction, where we say that we are a Christian nation and yet live like agnostics and atheists in our daily lives. We reduce Christianity to a recipe to follow to get what we want from God. We have our own rites and rules to practice or ignore, depending on whether or not we are "good Christians." That is not what I want for my own life or for the lives of our children. I don't want them growing up believing they are Christians because they grow up in a "Christian" country and a Christian family, because they go to church and to a Christian school. I don't want our children to be just good, moral people who know how to act like Christians, but don't know Christ. 

I find myself praying over and over that God will reveal himself at this time of year to Jews and Muslims as the Christ, the Son of God, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Perhaps I should be praying that Christians in our country will receive the same revelation, and come to know the living, loving, Savior in a personal way.

I want our children to follow Christ. Following Christ is sometimes a scary thought for me. Follow Christ? Even if I don't know where he is going? You can only do that when you have a faith that is motivated by love for the Shepherd, by love from the Shepherd. The ones in the Gospels who heard Christ say, "Follow me," must have recognized the love of Christ in those words for them to leave their nets and their other occupations and go after the Lord. 

Lord, may our children know You and trust You and have the faith to follow after You. And may they see the same faith in our own lives and decide to follow Jesus because of who we live and how we love.

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