His name was Jihad. That’s right, the name appropriated by Muslim extremists to sacralise and sanction violence and brutality. He was, and is, a Pastor. Pastor Jihad, leading the “True Vine” church in Zahle, Lebanon way down in the Bekaa valley on the border with Syria. A pretty, small city in a fertile valley right on the frontier with Syria and the first stop for the incessant stream of refugees fleeing the Syrian war.
So of course, I asked about his name. He was expecting it, I have no doubt. It simply means “struggle”, he said. It’s the word used in Arabic to describe Jacob wrestling through the night in Genesis 32. What a great name for a man bringing the peace of Jesus to the border lands of war. For “struggle” certainly names the turmoil in our hearts when we face up to the unconscionable evil at work in our world, or when we consider the massive challenges that face humanity.
The Collins Dictionary’s new word choice for 2022 is “Permacrisis” – an extended period of instability and insecurity. (Thanks, Lenna, for informing me!) Now that describes the chaotic world of November 2022. A brief roundup of the tribulations we have endured and the threats we face bear more than a passing resemblance to the desolation wreaked by the horsemen of the apocalypse in Revelation: a global pandemic, a war with worldwide effects, economic crises, social unrest, political flip-flopping and a climate crisis causing freak weather events.
Any believer in Jesus seriously considering the convulsions of our world will be perplexed and perturbed. Dave Andrews describes the Christian life as the “Jihad of Jesus”, the reality that our faith in his kingdom only serves to intensify our struggle with the world in crisis.
“This is not how it should be”, we cry
“How long oh Lord how long?”, we shout with the martyrs in heaven
Yet our struggle is born of faith, anchored in the secure ground of heavenly reality.
We believe God will overcome, that love will undo injury and forgiveness reset the human heart.
We take hold of the evidence of God’s past faithfulness and fix our attention on the completion of his plan.
We believe that as Jesus says in John 5:17, “My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too.”
The evidence points to the fact that God is indeed at work and often at work in the places of human extremity. The kingdom appears to be most visible and the spiritual atmosphere “thinnest” in the places of greatest injury and destruction. These are the places where we are to find ourselves, in prayer, in action and in support of those who serve.
I am often drawn back to these words from Tom Wright when I pray for the world and all the challenges we face:
“The church belongs at the very heart of the world, to be the place of prayer and holiness at the point where the world is most in pain”
We are tempted to believe that because we do not have access to the means of legislation or instruments of power or have a clue what is actually going on! that there is little we can do. Yet how far from the truth that is! We wield the true means by which the world and the hearts of humans can be changed for good.
Paul Bilheimer in his insightful book “Destined for the Throne” calls the church to intercede for the world
Through the use of her weapons of prayer and faith, she holds in this present moment the balance of power in world affairs. In spite of all of her lamentable weaknesses, appalling failures, and indefensible shortcomings, the Church is the mightiest force for civilization and enlightened social consciousness in the world today.
So, pray for our world in a state of permacrisis believing that the hidden power of Christ is the most potent force in global affairs. And look out in the next few weeks for our new prayer space in the Point which will be open during the week for us to take time to intercede