The following are the thoughts of a 2007 alumna of Columbia International University serving alongside her husband with The Alliance in Europe. Her name and specific location are withheld because of security concerns.
There’s nothing like another birth and post-pregnancy body to remind me that I need exercise. Muscles need toning, the extra weight needs to be lost, and in general there is a level of stamina that needs to be rebuilt for the physical demands of keeping up with my kids. The lower back groans with each bend, I get winded when I climb the stairs to my friend’s third floor apartment, and my arms beg for mercy when my child’s 14 pound body is too much to bear. It’s this discomfort and pain that remind me that exercise is vital to my health.
In much the same way, our faith needs toning. And what is faith? A willful choice to act on what we know to be true despite
what we see. It is this muscle of choice which must be practiced and exercised based on what we believe. If not, our faith will be flabby and unable to stand against the demands of our day. These days when terrorism is a normal word in conversation, when media powerfully plasters faces of both refugees and criminals on the walls of our minds, and when the countries of the world are mixing and mingling through immigration like never before in history. This is our day. And this is our opportunity to exercise our choice.
I was presented with a choice 13 years ago. My friend and co-worker had been brutally murdered in the city where we lived. Her martyrdom was unexpected and traumatic. Her life snuffed out by the very people she humbly and lovingly served. I was out of town when it happened, staying with the local pastor and his wife. After being notified of the horrific event, the pastor and I hurried to the car and raced down a familiar road toward the unknown. In that car ride, I was given a precious 45 minutes before arriving at the scene. 45 minutes to think, to imagine, to question, to pray. 45 precious minutes to make a choice between fear and faith, between hate and love. At the entrance to the city that I called home, there was a huge mosque being built, and as we passed it, I found myself saying out loud to no one in particular, and yet to every listening being in the heavenly realm, “I will love them! I choose to love them.”
Dear friends, in days of attacks and threats, we cannot be enslaved to fear! We cannot be bound by hate in a world that knows no different. God’s people have the Spirit of Christ not the spirit of this world! We have power to exercise our will and choose a different path – a path of love, a path of faith – not faith in the humans that surround us, but rather in the God who sovereignly puts them in our path. Dear friends, I beg you to respond to the events of our world with a choice to love, a choice to believe.
Every terrorist plot provides us with another reminder to exercise the muscle of our faith. It’s an opportunity to choose love over hate. An opportunity to believe the Word of God over the words of men. An opportunity to seize the moment and make a difference in this world so desperate for hope and guidance. If the followers of Jesus will not respond in love, who will? If faith, hope and love do not mark the character of the church, what will? And if now is not the time to respond in love and to exercise this faith, than when?
I didn’t know how that choice, 13 years ago, would affect me or be demonstrated in my life. I didn’t know the future, the way our world would turn and wars would come and go. I didn’t know I would bring three children into this world and send them to school next to a mosque. I didn’t know that I would live in Europe among immigrants. All I knew is that it was the right thing to do. If my faith in Jesus Christ was real, then I could love. It is still the right decision when I’m tempted to fear, when I remember my friend’s murder, when I doubt the intentions of the people who know where we live. It is still a choice to love when I invite women into my home, when I encourage friendships between my daughters and their immigrant friends, and when I pass my newborn baby to my neighbors to hold and play with.
Every day holds new opportunities for all of us – in the United States, as well as here in Europe – to exercise our muscles of faith.
Let’s choose to love, dear friends.