A good friend of mine recently returned from a mission trip to a third world country. Thankfully, he was able to offer hope, encouragement, and some real solutions to improve their quality of life, their health, and their economic situation.
While there, he worshipped with the local church and was privileged to give the sermon. Shortly after he began speaking, three middle school aged girls quietly entered the room and sat in the back. They were wearing traditional Muslim burkas and they left before he could speak with them.
The missionary asked the local pastor about these girls. “Oh yes,” he said casually, “they will be beaten for this.” When my friend showed obvious shock, the pastor went on to explain.
“These girls come from Muslim families and attend an Islamic school even on Sundays. Each week, they leave their school to worship with us and are beaten by their parents for missing school. I have encouraged them not to disobey their parents or to take actions that result in their own suffering but they tell me, “We’d rather be beaten than miss worship.””
As my friend shared this, I couldn’t keep tears from welling up. Such devotion to Jesus and to His church from mere children puts mine to shame. How many of us would rather be beaten than miss church this Sunday? Their church building is very plain with no stained glass, padded pews, or air conditioning. There is no professional music, fellowship meal or flashy children’s programs. Just people who love Jesus more than self.
I’ve had a really tough time getting this story out of my mind and I hope I never do. Knowing there are three young girls committed to worshipping the Savior with God’s Church every Sunday deepens my own sense of commitment to Jesus.
How often we’ve skipped Sunday worship for scads of reasons so pathetic compared to this. “My throat’s a little scratchy. It’s too pretty a day not to go fishing, camping, etc. I don’t like the music. The pastor’s messages aren’t interesting enough. I don’t get anything out of it. I really need a more sleep.” And one of the most common today, “I’d rather stay home and watch online.” God have mercy on our pitiful laziness.
Such weak, spoiled commitment makes me wonder about the true condition of our spirituality. Do we really love Jesus or just claim we do? People sometimes remark that we don’t have to go to church to be Christians. However, the Bible tells us that Jesus loved the church so much that He gave His life for her, not just the individuals within. Shouldn’t we love her at least enough to be a part of her whenever we can? Especially when there are no negative consequences for doing so?
In addition, the Bible tells us that it was Jesus’ custom to worship with other believers each week. To be a Christian means that we sincerely desire to copy Jesus’ example. If we physically cannot, that’s excusable, but if we are able and don’t, that’s not.
Thankfully, in this country, we have the freedom to worship whenever and wherever we choose. Thankfully, few, if any of us will ever be beaten for attending a worship service. Because of the First Amendment, we are guaranteed the freedom of religion that includes the freedom to worship or not. Let’s exercise this freedom and protect it.
May the self-sacrificing devotion of these young ladies not only motivate our own children and teenagers to worship each week with other believers, but may it convict all of us and move us to examine our relationships with Jesus and with His Church. See you in worship, George