Tension targeted the First-century church. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out specifically to bring power and anointing to the Bride of Christ, the Church, but the new entity was soon in conflict.
The first Jewish Christians worshipped Jesus but they lived according to the Law of Moses. These were called the Palestinian Jews. As converts from throughout the Roman Empire surfaced, they had no interest in Jewish culture, and were identified as Hellenized Jews having come from Greek influences. Neither group showed zeal for spreading the Gospel until Saul of Tarsus, the zealous Christian killer was converted on the Damascus Road. Now renamed Paul he passionately set out to preach the Lord with immediate resistance but with great results.
Under Nero, the Roman authorities specifically targeted the persecution of Christians. Most of Jesus disciples died violently. In those early, formative times James, a half brother of Jesus Christ was one of the leaders. His New Testament letter is among the earliest written.
Because he wrote to inspire and encourage the believers his theme is ‘faith.’ Because of the world in which they lived he wrote: ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit widows and orphans in their affliction, and keep yourself unstained from this world.” (James chapter 1, verse 27) He would be thinking of the families who were left without a breadwinner, even the wives and children of the murdered disciples.
Widows and Orphans
He challenged the early church to live in the spirit of their faith by preferring others, just as Jesus had displayed. We have a massive widows and orphans situation on our hands today. Vast numbers of innocent women and in particular young girls have been abused and sadly murdered. It is the spirit of our faith that they not be mere statistics.
Recently on my Vision FM radio spot we talked about 250 girls murdered by ISIS terrorists. Their crime? They refused to be part of ‘sexual jihad’ and consequently were executed. Since 2014 hundreds, if not thousands, have been forced into sex slavery. The alternative is death.
Earlier this year British Conservative MP Fiona Bruce shared the testimony of a 16-year-old Yazidi girl. “She spoke of witnessing her friends being raped and hearing their screams,” the MP explained. The same teen, in her testimony, described a 9-year-old girl ‘raped by so many men, she died!’ Appalling. I believe “religion that is pure and undefiled,” is very concerned.
World Vision published the plight of Kema who is 8-years-old and terrified of marriage. “Girls like Kema suffer sexual and emotional abuse,” WV report. “Girls like Kema are forced to marry men three or four times their age.” Sponsorship for Kema and girls like her is outlined at my.worldvision.com.au
Last year ISIS circulated a price list for sex slaves. Girls and boys aged 1 to 9 cost $165, adolescent girls are $124 and women over 40 are $41. According to the United Nations women captured as sex slaves by the ISIS group are sold at markets ‘for the price of a packet of cigarettes.”
Plead the Case
Zainab Bangura, the UN envoy on sexual violence said women are stripped naked and shipped around like cattle. “This is how they attract young men as fighters,” she said.
The Bible describes rulers who are ‘rebels’, who do ‘not defend the cause of the fatherless.” The prophet Isaiah declared ‘the widow’s case does not come before them.” (Isaiah chapter 1, verse 23) But he has a cause of action for believers. “Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah chapter 1, verse 17)
There has been considerable debate over the New Testament letter by James. His focus is ‘faith.’ He believed vociferously in prayer and accordingly was said to have knees like a camel from kneeling. His letter described the spirit of religion. In that spirit we must be concerned with the persecution and shaming of others. We can so easily be diverted from the priorities set by the Lord for his Kingdom. It was James who warned us to be ‘doers of the message and not hearers only.’ (James chapter 1, verses 22)
Followers of Jesus must be committed to the wellbeing of others, even like ‘a father to the fatherless.’ It is so easy to feel powerless in the face of the cruel, onslaught of evil but there are creative ways to enter the fray.
Recently the Good News Network told an inspiring story. When the distressing stories of sexual abuse were told 7,700 donors from around the world responded. Rafiki Mwema – meaning “Loyal Friend” – is a nonprofit home that educates, houses, and cares for young Kenyan girls who have been sexually abused.
An Aussie mum Sarah Rosberg set up a webpage to raise $75,000 to assist Kenyan girls who were victims of sexual abuse. Over the course of one month $200,000 was raised to provide a second facility. (Rafiki Mwema can be followed on Facebook or Instagram)
International headlines lean towards the negative aspects of every situation and there is no denying the seriousness of any given misdeed. But prayer is our most potent yet often forgotten weapon. Mother Theresa had a powerful insight. She said: “May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.”
Maybe we should step back and see the Almighty power and significance of God. Oswald Chambers, the Scottish Baptist evangelist said it best: “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”
In Ephesians chapter 6 the Apostle Paul urges us to pray ‘on every occasion in the power of the Spirit.” Paul encouraged Christians to ‘watch’ and ‘persevere. Author John White wrote about the warfare aspects of prayer. He commented: “Hell’s legions are terrified of prayer. Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees.” (The Fight by John White, Ivp)
James and his Camel Knees would be please to see that faith in action on behalf of those in such great need.