A Dark Day for America and Afghanistan: Reflections and Prayer
Today has been a very diffifult day. As of the time of this writing, two separate suicide bombings by ISIS-K have killed at least thirteen U.S. Service members and injured at least fifteen more. There were also at least ninety Afghan civilian casualties. Officials say it was the deadliest day for U.S. troops in ten years.
Thousands of Americans and friends of America are also cut off from the airport in Kabul and must be evacuated.
Afghan Christians are suffering. Of the eighteen house churches in one particular underground evangelical church network, we know of at least one in which every member (men, women and children) were martyred this week. People around the world are praying and waiting to hear news from other underground churches to see if the people have survived.
Many Afghan women and children, particularly females children, are living in fear. The gains made over the past twenty years to be treated equally, to have access to education and gainful employment and public office, will soon be reversed as the Taliban seeks to re-establish Sharia Law.
It has been a difficult seven day period as we have seen desperate Afghans pleading for refuge from the Taliban. A generation of young people has grown up who have never known Taliban rule, they have only heard the horror stories of mass executions in soccer stadiums, how things like kite-flying and soccer and other games were forbidden.
The images of desperate people running alongside airplanes, begging to be let on board to escape the Taliban were gut wrenching. The images of people so desperate to live they hung on to airplanes, hoping against hope to somehow survive, only to fall thousands of feet to their death was brutal to watch. One of those who fell was covered by the August 24th edition of the Wall Street Journal. The title of the article: 'Afghanistan's Falling Man: The 17-Year Old Soccer Star Who Plunged From a U.S. Military Jet.
The young man's name was Zaki Anwari. He saw no future as the Taliban rolled into Kabul. His older brother Zakir told him not to try to escape. He believed Zaki would be killed. The only reply Zaki gave was: 'I have to try.' He believed he had to try because he desperately wanted to be free and to pursue his dreams. To stay, in his mind, would lead to death.
So he tried.
The chaos of the past week has been painful to watch for so many reasons.
Reports of men and women who served honorably in Afghanistan have also been difficult to read. Many are feeling exceptional pain. Some are wondering if all they (and their brothers and sisters) sacrificed was in vain. Many are angry. Some feel betrayed. Many are worried about the most vulnerable of the Afghan people (women and children), and they grieve as they try to process all of this.
What do we make of all of this, of all that has happened, knowing full well that more is to come? There are still more people to evacuate. The president has vowed to retaliate against ISIS-K, but what will that look like and where will this lead?
What are we to make of the things that have happened, are happening, and what can we do? What should we do, as Christians?
We can clearly see failure upon failure in leadership and decision making. We could focus on that issue, and I am sure historians will for decades to come. Honestly, there should be a very thorough evaluation of every action and non-action taken that contributed to this disastrous nightmare.
This is not a political post, by the way.
I want to encourage us as Christians to focus on a few other issues that are biblical worldview issues, first.
First, what we are seeing is what the Scriptures clearly affirm about our human condition, and what we have seen over and over and over again when we studied Esther and Daniel: We live in a fallen, sinful world and sin negatively impacts everything. Scripture is very clear on this. And, in a fallen world, there will always be men and women who crave power and desire control enough to do almost anything, no matter how evil and violent, to gain that power. This is the world we live in.
Our Creator came to us and we not only didn't recognize Him, we killed Him in the most horrific of ways. Remember that? But then He came for that very purpose-to lay down His life as a ransom for many, to offer Himself up as a substitionary sacrifice on our behalf, to endure God's righteous and holy wrath against our sin, taking it upon Himself, so the justice of God could be satisfied and sinful people like you and me (all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God-Romans 3:23), could be forgiven and reconciled to God, so we could be born again. Jesus Christ knows very much about our suffering. His first appearance was to come as The Suffering Servant.
Heads up: when He returns, it will not be to suffer, but to conquer. He will return as Conquering King, and when that time comes, Satan, sin and all evil will be once and for all judged. Evil does not win, even when it seems to prosper for a time. Again, we have seen this over and over in the months we have spent in Daniel.
Second, we must come to terms with this issue: we are seeing a clash of worldviews, and, to be more specific, a theological clash. I do not believe most in the West understand this. The Taliban is acting on their understanding of Islamic theology. There is no separation between the political and the religious as all of life is to come under subjection to Islam in their understanding. If jihad is required, so be it. If 'conversion' requires the sword, so be it.
As Christians, we have a very different worldview. The Kingdom of God advances one person at a time, one heart at a time, and that happens as people are regenerated, born again, by the saving work of Christ, not under compulsion, rather under the convicting and transforming work of the Holy Spirit.
Our secular culture, however, seems to dismiss or miss the place of theology in all of this. By not taking into consideration the need for a heart transformation (salvation), and by not seeing the world as it really is (as Scripture so perfectly describes) many of our leaders were absolutely unprepared for the carnage that was unleashed as the withdrawal began.
As Christians, I believe we have specific responsibilities at this time, things we can do and must do and I humbly submit these to you for consideration:
1) We must pray. We are commanded to pray. We are to pray for those in governing authority over us. We are to pray for those who hate us. We are to pray for those who do not yet know Christ. We are to pray that God's Kingdom would come. We are to pray. And yet, so many professing Christians spend so little time in prayer. We get on our knees and pray for this nation, for our leaders, for our churches, for an Awakening, for revival and reformation in our churches and we must pray for the gospel to advance in Afghanistan, and, for the Holy Spirit to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in that underground church in Afghanistan.
Will you do that? Will you gather others to do that? Will you take time to do that?
2) We must witness. We are here to be witnesses. We are here to make disciples. We must share Christ with those around us. We must also look for the people groups around us (here, in the U.S.) who have come to America from places where there was little to no access to the gospel. We may not be able to go to Afghanistan on mission right now, but we certainly can look for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with Afghans (and anyone else from any other nation) who may be here right now. We have The Answer. There is no salvation apart from Christ, and Christ is able to heal and to restore broken lives. God have mercy on us for our 'people-blindness.' We must see our communities and city as Jesus does.
3) We need to pray for and encourage veterans who served and those who are actively serving now. There are in fact many heavy hearts. We must be intentional about praying for those who have served, and, when we see them, to be encouraging. They did not waste their lives. They need to know that. And, most of all, they need to know the One True King who is the Prince of Peace. So we pray and we share Jesus (noticing a theme here)?
4) We need to pray for the families and friends who will be receiving very unwanted news in the days ahead, news of loved ones who were killed as a result of this day. Pray that the Lord Jesus reveals Himself as the Prince of Peace to these families and friends at this time. Pray that hurting people encounter the Risen Savior in this time. Pray.
5) Lastly (and we could discuss so much more, but for the sake of space, will stop with this point: we must be thoroughly committed to Biblical Truth. Theology matters. Truth matters. The Truth sets free. Lies keep people in bondage. Right now, with everything else going on, our culture is experiencing a profound seismic cultural and spiritual transformation, and that transformation is very far away from Biblical Truth. Christianity may not be 'popular' in our culture, but Jesus is (still) 'The way, truth and life...and no man comes to the Father except through Him.' God's Word is still timelessly True. We must be a people who walk in Truth (so we must pray for and exhort and encourage one another), and we must be a people who speak the Truth in love. This dark culture needs Jesus, whether people realize that is their great need or not. He is our only Hope.
Sadly, there is a rather dangerous falling away in many of our churches across America as pastors and church leaders dillute Truth or flat out abandon it, in the hope of being 'liked' or seen as relevant by the emerging culture. This development only adds further fuel to the spiritual and cultural crisis we are facing. We must be a people committed to Truth, even if it costs us.
These are not easy times. These are complicated and difficult times and this past week has been a reminder of just how fallen and broken humanity is.
And yet, as Christians we are ever mindful that our Good and Sovereign God reigns, and because of that, we can rejoice. All of history and time and all peoples and nations are in His Hand. Again-evil does not win. He wins. His victory is our victory.
So while we are here, may we be about His business. May we be His hands and feet to a lost and broken world. May we be a people committed to prayer, to the Truth, to shareing the Gospel of Jesus, to loving God and our neighbor.
This broken world sure needs to see that.
Grace and Peace,
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