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By Justin Meyers
A Muslim friend of mine from Pakistan confided to me that he, and members of his community, believed the U.S. drone strikes carried out in his country during the 2000’s and 2010’s were a preemptive strike by Christians to soften up the country for religious conversion to Christianity.
He heard Christians publicly call for peace, but he experienced bombs falling from the sky. He understood the U.S. to be a Christian nation and he saw the physical, military violence through a religious lens. For him, our words and our actions didn’t match. It wasn’t until he met a Christian in Oman that the words a Christian spoke were experienced in the Christian’s actions.
Through the prophet Micah, God has some harsh words for religious leaders who cry peace but declare war against the defenseless.
Jesus, according to Matthew, has equally harsh words for religious leaders who teach what is right, but oppress the people in their care.
What we say must match what we do.
As I work in Oman, one of the things that is ever present to me is that my actions need to match my words. As a very public Christian in a Muslim majority country, people are watching to see if what I do matches what I say. My Omani ID card lists “priest” as my occupation. I can’t just be a “Sunday” Christian. I can’t hide or blend in with the crowd Monday thru Saturday. If I get pulled over by the police, they know I am Christian. When I apply for governmental services, they know I am Christian. When I sign up for a cell phone, rent a car, check into a hotel, etc., they know that I am a Christian.
The scribes and the Pharisees didn’t try to hide their religious position. They made sure everyone knew who and what they were. With it came a great responsibility. They sat in Moses’s seat. Even though they may have taught what is right, they failed at being what they were supposed to be. They said the right things, but they didn’t live it.
My prayer, as I publicly represent Jesus and Christianity in Oman, is that my words and my actions will both point to Jesus.
I have found that being a public Christian in Oman has made me consider aspects of my life that I could gloss over when I lived and pastored in the U.S. I realize now, how many times I sloughed off my Christian identity, or hid it, when it suited me. I am grateful to Oman for making me a full-time public Christian. I now hope I can live up to the responsibility.
Prayer for the day:
Dear Jesus, you left the halls of heaven and lived, as you taught, among us on the earth. You revealed yourself to us and made public to all what was hidden from many. Help us to live publicly for you. Empower us by your Spirit to live in such a way that both our words and our actions reveal to the world your love for all people. Amen.
Justin Meyers is the Associate Director of Al Amana Centre in Muscat, Oman. An ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, Justin pastored in New York prior to serving in Oman. Al Amana Centre, the legacy of the Reformed Church in America’s medical and educational work in Oman, is committed to working for understanding and peace between Muslims and Christians.