Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reactions to the Cross

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes – Jews first and also Gentiles.” Romans 1: 16

I phoned Fatimeh yesterday and mentioned that her spring holidays from ESL school would begin on Good Friday. She remarked excitedly, "It's a good luck Friday." "No, Fatimeh," I replied. "It is not about good luck but rather it is the day we remember Jesus died on the cross for our sins, then was buried in a grave and came alive again on Easter day." The reaction to the cross was essentially one of ignorance.

Khalid, a prominent religious leader in his community, was a very sick man. He was drifting in and out of consciousness when I arrived in his hospital room. His distressed wife, Fardos, had called me saying that “it is serious”. I wanted to pray for him but I wondered if it would be possible because I was sure many from their Arab Muslim community would be present during visiting hours in his hospital room making prayer awkward. But, lo and behold, I was alone!  He did not seem very aware of his surroundings but when he saw me, something strong within him rose up and he ordered, “Take that cross off the wall.” A hospital orderly in the room feeling nervous about removing the crucifix took the calendar hanging close by and hung it over the cross. That bothered me a lot. I asked Khalid if I could pray for him. He nodded yes. As I prayed for him his whole body shook like a leaf. Then I left. A crucifix could be covered up but no one could remove the presence of the Living Christ from Khalid’s room. Later his wife called me and asked, “Did you visit Khalid?” She didn’t explain why but she was sure it must have been me. I was amazed that the sight of a crucifix on the wall would elicit such strong negative emotion in the dying Muslim man. Or was it more?

We invited a Saudi man to our home for supper. Across the street from our home is a large church which has a cross raised high for all to see from a distance and is illumined at night. It is a special blessing to me reminding me day and night of the wonderful Savior we have who poured out His blood for the forgiveness of our sins at great personal cost. We pointed out the cross to our Saudi friend. He literally shrunk back gazing at it from our back door. He listened carefully as we explained the story. The cross seemed to elicit fear to our Saudi friend.

One day, in the middle of the week, I decided to take Karima to the church. She had never been inside a church before. We sat in the quiet empty sanctuary staring at the cross on the wall when she became overcome with some inexplicable emotion. She asked if she could pray. She prayed out loud a long time in her language from her heart. Then I prayed. Karima began to cry and continued to do so for quite some time. The Spirit was drawing her but she was resisting declaring she was a follower of Jesus. She’s in the valley of decision. As we gazed at the cross on the wall I went over the story again. She was overcome with a magnetic attraction.

Salima has given her heart to Jesus and is not ashamed of the cross. She wears a necklace with a cross proudly declaring she is a passionate follower of Jesus.

Muslims can be ignorant about the cross or enraged, fearful, or attracted to the cross. I love to tell them the story. Those who understand and give their hearts to Jesus declare proudly their love for their Savior. There will usually be one of those reactions. If there is no reaction it has not been understood.

Dear heavenly Father, I’ll never stop being amazed at the story of the cross. In Jesus’ name, Amen.