This summer in Vacation Bible School we reenacted Saul’s conversion. We made gray paper chains and carried them to “Damascus.” We circled the room muttering threats against those awful Christians who kept preaching that God wanted us to trust in Jesus rather than follow a list of rules.
Our church is fortunate to have a large room with a divider. When we passed to the other side of the divider, we found the cardboard gates of Damascus. Suddenly one of my helpers turned out the lights as another helper turned on a spotlight at the top of a ladder disguised with plastic plants and silk greens. We covered our eyes and fell to the ground.
A voice came out of the closet: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” The voice revealed itself to be Jesus, and we were all amazed. Maybe it’s true that trusting Jesus is more important than following rules.
This week I have been praying a lot for Afghanistan. Jesus is considered a prophet in Islam, but for decades there have been those who spread the word that he is more than a prophet—that God wants you to trust in Jesus Messiah—Isa Massih—not merely to follow a list of rules, like praying five times a day, keeping women covered or making a pilgrimage to Mecca. The events of the past week or so have been frightening in their speed. The Taliban is not ISIS, but their reputation for human rights is little better. The word is that pastors in Afghanistan are now in hiding. Satan would love to stamp out the country’s infant church. He meant this for evil. When Jesus was crucified, Satan must have thought he had won. But God turned the intended evil into good for our salvation. Couldn’t he turn this evil to good?
What if these events resulted in more Muslims being disillusioned with a religion that doesn’t satisfy?
What if this led to more people seeking a different way?
Many Muslims are going to suffer in the coming weeks. What if they saw in Christians a joy and faith in the midst of suffering that made them want to know their Jesus?
Many Muslims come to faith in Jesus through visions or dreams like the one God gave to Saul, the Pharisee. Could God send dreams to members of the Taliban as well? Like Saul when he traveled to Damascus, they think they are doing God’s work when they kill Christians. What if some of them met Jesus in a way as powerful as Saul’s confrontation on the road to Damascus? God did it once. He can do it again.
Pray that this "catastrophe" would result in a great turning to Christ among the people of Afghanistan.
Lord, show yourself to your people in Afghanistan. Strengthen their faith; meet them in their fear; rescue them with miracles as you did your people in Egypt. Show yourself to the nation in this time of crisis. Move with your spirit to open their eyes to the futility of following a list of rules. Stir up a hunger for righteousness that does not come from laws enforced by threats. Awaken a desire for a personal relationship with a Father God. May they see in you power to save and protect, mercy to restore, a love and faithfulness worth hanging onto even unto death. Turn the evil the Taliban planned to eternal good, and call out even some of them for your service as you called a raging Pharisee named Saul and turned him into the great missionary and theologian Paul.
The Christianity Today podcast Quick to Listen interviewed an Afghan pastor and evangelist, David Paiman. I appreciated hearing his conversion story, brought kicking and screaming into the kingdom of heaven, and his prayer for his country at this time. The site includes a transcript if you prefer reading to listening.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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