Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Who Owns Them?

"But now, O Israel, the Lord who created you says: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

Every morning Ed and I spend time praying through a segment of the list of the names of Muslims and believers from Muslim background whom we know. None of them belong to us. We carry them in our hearts and love them so much but they don’t belong to us. It took some years to come to the realization that we can not own any of these dear people. When you love deeply you can sure think someone belongs to you! There have been times when certain ones have looked to us as their mother or father. We are investing in friendships, come alongside them in their baptisms and are discipling a few. Suddenly off they fly; sometimes far away. Some seem to have even forgotten us or the part we played in their early years of spiritual growth. We hear other people’s names mentioned now from their mouths.

This subject of “owning” Muslim friends or believers can be a painful sensitive reality. One time we met a new Muslim family and within a few days some other Christians walked into their lives in a way which seemed to communicate “they are ours.” Perhaps you have gone through something similar. Occasionally this happens when you have labored hard to get a group of believers together for teaching and fellowship only to have some other Christian walk in and “take over.”  The fellowship group is no longer in your hands or even in your life.

We can feel a sense of ownership when someone we have invested in gets baptized or we have sponsored them to come to the West – kind of like they owe us their lives. Well, we probably would never voice this expectation but we can sure feel like it. Let’s be honest. Perhaps we gave them money, let them stay in our home for a time, coached them through labor, or spent hours sitting with a cancer patient going through chemo. Churches, denominations, or mission organizations may give the impression they own a convert. I wish I had learned the lesson about not owning anyone long ago. It would have saved me pain and confusion. After a few heartaches in this area I finally came to see that God puts these individuals in my life usually for a season and a purpose but not for always. He is teaching me to hold them lightly and let them go when they move on. They belong to God, not me. Nevertheless I continue to carry them in my heart, pray for them, and connect whenever possible. It really is for their good and for their spiritual growth to be exposed to the wider body of Christ. Each plays a part. There have been a few people who have tried to “own” me which caused considerable angst. I don’t want to do the same thing to others but rather extend freedom and always remember they ultimately belong to God.

I am still learning recently as in the last few days. There was a deep grieving as I relinquished to God a beautiful, spiritually open and hungry Muslim woman. A "fight" over which Christian "owned" her developed. It was time to step aside.

Dear heavenly Father, please help me to know the difference between responsibility and ownership. In Jesus’ name, Amen.