This is partly taken from today's sermon by Dr. Todd Jordan of the First United Methodist Church of Caldwell:
"I have the right to education."
"I have the right to play."
"I have the right to sing."
"I have the right to talk."
"I have the right to go to market."
"I have the right to speak up."
These are the words 14-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousufzai wrote that put her on the hit list for the Taliban.
To which the Oh-So-Brave sounding spokesperson for the Taliban responded, "We do not tolerate people like Malala speaking against us."
About a week and a half ago in the Taliban-heavy region of Swat Valley in Pakistan, armed gumen pulled over a van on its way to a girl's school. When Malala was identified, they shot her.
Amazingly, she lived. She fights for her life in a hospital in Birmingham, England.
The Taliban have stated that if she survives, they will attempt to finish her off.
Their (the Taliban's) plan to suppress girls is backfiring. Whatever they thought they were doing is not, and will not work. People all over the world are rising up and becoming all the more determined to fight for freedom and rights for girls and boys all over the world.
Even other children are more determined than ever to make sure they go to school and get an educations.
The best response I read yet comes from a Pakistani professor who teaches at the University in Maryland said, "Just as the Taliban scare us with terror, we must scare them by making them unable to operate...We must terrorize them by investing more than ever before in educating girls."
We as Christians must affirm and support such cries for justice and freedom wherever and however it shows up. This is what Christ calls us to do. We must not back down in fear, nor allow others to be bullied. We must use weapons greater than guns, we must, like Malala, speak the truth, even in the face of death.
In one of her interviews, Malala said, "God will ask you on the day of judgement where were you when people were asking you when your school fellows were asking you, when your school was asking you, 'Why am I being blown up?"
Someone asked are they really that afraid of a little girl? Are all those grown men, trained fighters armed with more weapons than you can count, really that afraid of the words of a little 14 year old girl?
Yes. Yes, they are. And do you know what? They should be!
They should be shaking in their combat boots. Because when anyone speaks with the kind of truth and conviction Malala does in the face of almost certain death, she becomes more powerful than the mightiest army, and can accomplish more than any leader, any president, any general, any dictator.
Malala can change the world...because she is right.
She speaks the truth.
Now my (Ed's) commentary extending on these thoughts. One person can make a difference. One person, speaking the truth, living his/her convictions can change the world. Proof? Ghandi. Led peaceful protests, was jailed, beaten, threatened, and eventually brought India to freedom from British rule. Proof? Rosa Parks. She refused to give up her seat on a bus, was arrested for being an African-American in a white's only section of a bus, and was threatened with eviction from her home, and death threats. She started the Modern Civil Rights Movement that would lead to the Equal Rights Act of 1965 forever ending segregation in our nation and guaranteeing equal rights for all people regardless of skin color. Proof? Little Malala. A 14 year old girl who simply wants basic rights. What John Locke called the Natural Rights of Man. What Thomas Jefferson called the Unalienable Rights all people are born with.
All people who want to make the world a better place, all Christians who believe we are called to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, must seek justice for all people. This is a call to action. It is not action to attack, to judge, or to threaten, it is a call to love! A call to live the word, in the Word. To represent Christ to a hurting world. The true disciple may face threats, violence, and even death, but if you are willing to go where God wills, to do His bidding, to show love to all, to pray for your enemies, and to have faith that God will provide all you need in the journey, than you can change the world. That's conviction.
Now, back to Dr. Jordan's sermon. The biggest obstacle to such discipleship is our own nature. The status quo is safe, it is hard to move forward and seek change. Ecclesiastes 11:4 states, "Whoever observes the wind will not sow; and whoever regards the clouds will not reap." In other words, when you wait around for everything to be perfect in order to start, you will never start. If you are waiting for clear instructions and a plan of action to begin following or serving Jesus, it's never going to happen.
When Jesus asks, "Are you able?" he doesn't mean, do you have the power and strength to live out the Gospel even unto death. He already knows the answer to that: No. We don't. What does Jesus mean when he asks James and John in Mark, "Are you able?" He is asking are you willing to go where I say go? Are you willing to speak what and when I need you to speak? Are you willing to serve how I need you to serve? Are you willing to give what I need you to give? Are you willing to sacrifice what I need you to sacrifice?
Even if it is costly, uncomfortable, or threatening to do so.
Jesus does not need our good intentions.
Jesus does not need our good will.
Jesus does not need our warm fuzzy Christian experiences we get when the band or choir sings our favorite songs.
All of these things are well and good, but not sufficient.
Jesus needs the commitment of those who are willing, those who are faithful, those who are able to follow, then to follow through; for you to stand up and be counted.
A Korean theologian in a Disciples Bible's study video told his story. He grew up in an orphanage in South Korea during the Korean War. He remembers a story of how the Communist North Koreans made a sweep of the South and rounded up some Christians. After given them a hard time with interrogations and intimidation the N. Korean General finally asked, "Are you Christians?" He knew they were, but they all remained silent and simply stared. Finally one hand was raised. "Only one? " He turned to his soldiers, "Take the others and get rid of them. This is the only one with conviction, the only one worth saving."
We don't know what will be demanded of us--whether it will help us or hurt us. What's more, we don't know what we will need, and most likely, if it is truly God's call, outside of his grace we won't have what is needed.
All we can do, finally, is go forth in faith.
And so Jesus asks us, "Are you able?"
Pray for those hurting, in the hospital, facing death, mourning, in broken relationships. Pray for those that believe, and those that do not. Pray for those, like Malala that are seeking justice. Pray for the Taliban, that their hearts may change. Pray for our soldiers in harms way. Pray for the innocent boys and girls who simply want to be able to speak, get an education, or go to a market.
Remember: You cannot defeat the truth. The Truth shall set you free. Seek Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with the Lord.