I will be out of the country for a few weeks, but I wanted to leave you with a painfully good question that comes to us from a Jew:
“Why don’t Christians help Christians?”
The question was asked by Dennis Prager with reverent concern for the health of American Christianity. His article (read it here) asks why Christians are not more vocal about the plight of their brothers and sisters in the Middle East.
Prager recounts how he has long been an activist on behalf of suffering Jews in Russia, and he acknowledges that Christians have been staunch allies along the way. However, Christians never have seemed too active on behalf of other Christians. And now, Christians are largely silent in the face of brutal oppression throughout the Middle East. So, Prager asks, “Why don’t Christians help other Christians?”
I wish I knew the answer. The cynic in me wants to respond hastily with severe condemnation: Christians don’t help because they don’t care about anything beyond their own personal peace and affluence (to borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer). Christians are more intent on tapping into some secret prayer of power and clout which guarantees them money and fun than they are intent on understanding the global body of Christ.
Cynicism–though sometimes true–is almost always too simplistic and overly abrasive. While some Christians may not care, the truth is many Christians do not even know. When they find out, they respond with concern and generosity. Ignorance, I believe, is a bigger factor than unconcern.
Yet, even ignorance can be malicious, as is indicated by Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 25. At the end of time when Christ returns, he will judge all men, putting the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. To this judgment, men will cry, “When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Obviously, they are ignorant of having neglected Jesus, but Jesus does not excuse their ignorance; instead, he assigns them to a place of eternal punishment. Ignorance is no excuse.
By and large, Christians are ignorant of the plight of their persecuted brothers and sisters. The picture, as Prager paints it, is not an encouraging one:
In the Muslim world, Christians are being murdered, churches are being torched, entire ancient Christian communities — the Iraqi and Palestinian, for example — are disappearing. And, again, 2 billion Christians react with silence. There are some Christian groups active on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world. They do important work, and are often the primary source of information on persecuted Christians. But they would be the first to acknowledge that the Christian world is overwhelmingly silent when it comes to the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world.
Christians are not doing enough for other Christians. Why are Christians silent? Again, I don’t know. I am thinking about this and other questions as I embark on a three-week adventure that will take me close (but not into) Muslim dominated areas, where Christians are facing persecution (see map above). I want to understand why American Christians are concerned for the environment, the White House, and the latest book by the nearest evangelical heretic, but we remain largely unaffected by the body of Christ still suffering.
“Remember the [persecuted Christian] prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).
[May the Lord bless us to obey Hebrews 13:3]