I woke on Thursday morning to see the following headlines in the Guardian; Asia Bibi: Pakistan court overturns blasphemy death sentence. The journalist explained how ‘the Christian farm labourer, a 47-year-old mother of four, was sentenced to hang for blasphemy in 2010. She had angered fellow Muslim farm workers by taking a sip of water from a cup she had fetched for them on a hot day. When they demanded she convert to Islam, she refused, prompting a mob to later allege that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed.’
I was immediately thrilled. Aware that we along with millions of others around the world have prayed for Asia’s release and against the injustice of the sentence and the death-threats to those judges who have sought to overturn the sentence. However, as I reflected on the ruling I felt challenged for two reasons.
Firstly, I am aware that there are many more believers in North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere who face death, torture, imprisonment and discrimination for the sake of Jesus. Yet, in reality these dear brothers and sisters do not always occupy the prominent place in my heart and mind that they ought. Secondly, I felt convicted by the way that I so often take for granted the relative freedom we enjoy and appreciate in the West. Indeed, as I read the Scriptures and follow the trajectory of current political and social trends, I suspect that this may not remain the case for too long.
I leave you then to reflect on these words; ‘if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!’ (1 Peter 3:15-17)
Every blessing, Gareth