Calling for Christians

In the midst of the increasing prevalence of hate speech and intolerance around us, we as a Christian community placed in Indonesia have a calling that is not easy. There are many efforts made by Islamic groups or schools who want to make the Republic of Indonesia a country with a religious ideology, an Islamic country. This movement has become increasingly strong over the last 10 years with the emergence of identity politics in the general elections, both central and regional.

Yet, God has not wrongly placed us here and now in the country with the largest Muslim population in the world (around 229 million Muslims in a population of 271 million people – about 84%). It is our calling to shine the light of God in the midst of this nation.

How do we live up to our calling among our Muslim brothers and sisters? This passage in the text of Genesis 12:1-5 teaches us some principles, which, when we earnestly live them out, will encourage us to persevere in our calling even though there are many challenges and opposition.

1. The God who calls us is the Immanuel God

Sisters and brothers, our text gives us the story of Abram’s calling to leave his home community, his family and his country. This call demanded a high price.

Abram had to leave his comfort zone, an established life in a sculpture-making family. Bible scholars explain that Abram’s family had a successful business as an idol maker. We all understand that leaving an establishment and going to a far place to start a new life is not an easy thing. This is where we learn the meaning of obeying God’s commands

Abram had to leave his extended family. The consequence of this command is that Abram is uprooted from his cultural roots and community of origin. Leaving his friends, family and memories of his past was a high cost. This is what obedience to a command means.

Will a new place make life better? Will it be possible to find a good community like before? Can one start building a business later in life? Of course, such questions popped up in Abram’s mind. But we see how Abram truly trusted the God who called and faithfully accompanied him.

We too are invited to believe that this God who called Abram is the same God who calls us to live for God’s will and glory where we are placed. God wants us to be God’s representatives, spread God’s truth, and tell about God to everyone around us. Like Abram, we know this call is not easy, requiring a real struggle. We believe that if God was with Abram throughout his life journey, then God will also be with us throughout our lives. God is Immanuel, God with us.

2. The God who calls us is the Responsible God

A friend once told me that everything is tested for truth over the passage of time. After I studied the story of Abram’s life, I understood more about the meaning of this phrase. We find evidence that the God who called Abram is a God who remains consistent with what God promised.

Not only did God accompany the journey of Abram’s family life, but God was also responsible for the life and safety of all of Abram’s extended family. Notice how when Abram lived in the Negev where there was a famine (Genesis 12:10-20), then Abram fled to Egypt, and during the exile in Egypt, God blessed Abram’s family. Notice also how God saved Abram’s family from being captives of the kings (Genesis 14:1-16). Notice also how God saved Lot from being punished by Sodom and Gomorra (Genesis 19:1-29). Notice also how Abram’s wife, Hagar (Genesis 16:1-14) and their son Ishmael were saved and protected (Genesis 21:14-20).

Brothers and sisters, we are aware that responding to God’s call in our lives does not eliminate problems in our lives. On the contrary, as we try to wholeheartedly carry out God’s call in our lives, problems will come and go in our lives. Today, we learn from Abram’s life journey that when he tries to obey God’s commands with all his heart, God is responsible for doing God’s part. God will sustain, help, accompany and bless Abram.

Likewise, for us, living in the midst of a nation whose majority do not know the true God, we know that we Christians live with intimidation. We experience problems such as complicated permits for the construction of places of worship, or even places of worship that have been used for decades and then closed with a fabricated reason. We hear other sad stories where Christians don’t get promoted because as devout believers we don’t want to be participate in dishonesty, corruption and compromise.

But we believe that God’s power will not be blocked. People may try to stop the blessing from coming to us, but the Lord Jesus will send it from another way. God who calls us to live for God, and will surely be responsible for the consequences of decisions in our lives.

3. God who calls us requests an obedient response from us

Sisters and brothers, we all understand that from the very beginning when God created humanity, God wanted to make humans the object of God’s love. We find beautiful, romantic stories before humans fell into sin, about the close relationship between humans and God. God wants broken relationships to be repaired and broken self images to be restored. God wants to be obeyed.

The story of Abram, who obeyed God’s commandments, becomes a model for us to imitate today. Just as we are faced with challenges and temptations, Abram in his day also faced many challenges and temptations. One of the challenges that shook Abram’s soul was that he and his partner (Sarai), had not yet had the child promised by God (Genesis 18:11). Even when God repeated His promise (Genesis 17:17), Abram had doubt about it, but Abram chose to keep trusting God, obeying with all his heart, until God finally gave Isaac. But the challenge of Abram’s obedience was not over, because God tested Abram’s obedience again by asking him to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1-12). Again, we are shown the absolute and unconditional obedience of Abram to the call of the Lord God.

Brothers and sisters, I believe that God has never wrongly called us or placed us in this land where the majority of the population do not know who the Lord Jesus Christ is; where followers of Jesus are the object of ridicule and intimidation. This is where our obedience is being tested. We have a choice: to surrender to the challenges and opposition, or to obey God regardless of the cost.

Indonesia needs our testimony as children of God who dare to live obediently to God’s truth, marked by practicing that truth in life from day to day. We are called to be agents of peace, full of love, in our communities. Obeying God does not mean there are no challenges, but obeying God will surely bring blessing.

—Natanael Sukamto, pastor of GITJ (Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa) congregation in Sembaturagung, Pati, Central Java, Indonesia.

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