October 28, 2014

A Place in This World

By Brittany Tedesco

When I was around 10 or 11 years old, my dad would take my sister and me to the roller rink near our home every Monday night, because that was “Christian skate night.” Michael W. Smith had recently come out with his hit single “Place in This World,” and the DJ seemingly couldn´t get enough of it. Either that or his repertoire of Christian songs was seriously lacking.

Whatever the case, when I hear that song now, I´m instantly transported back to that dimly lit roller rink with the disco ball slowly spinning overhead. I´m a little girl again wearing an oversized sweatshirt skating through the darkness to the words, “Looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find my place in this world, my place in this world.”

Isn´t that what everybody wants? A place in this world . . . to belong? A purpose for existing?

We who are Christians know that God created humans with this desire, not so He could sadistically watch us flounder around trying to find our purpose in life, but so that we would look to Him and find this desire met in Him.

In fact, as believers we´re called “living stones” who are “being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5 NASB). As living stones, we have a place. We belong in that spiritual house with other living stones – not only do we belong in that house, but we actually help comprise that house. We have a purpose.

And this spiritual reality translates into a physical reality. In His Word, God tells us that He created us for good works that He prepared in advance for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). He´s practically shouting, “I have a place for you! I have a purpose for you!”

There are alternatives. There always will be, because people aren´t going to stop trying to fill their need for belonging and purpose just because they´ve never tasted of the Lord´s goodness.

And some alternatives look uglier than others.

Two rival gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (otherwise known as “MS-13”) and Barrio 18 (or “18th Street Gang”), continue to grow unabated in Guatemala. The average age a person is initiated into one of these gangs is between 14 and 15 years old. The gangs do their recruiting outside schools, and they´re highly effective with their offers of love and community, which the kids lack at home.

How is this affecting culture in Guatemala? Violence is rampant. The rate of impunity for violent crime is nearly 100% as the government is simply unable to curb it. Multitudes of concerned mothers are sending their children across the U.S. border, illegally, knowing they´ll probably never see them again . . . just to avoid the possibility they´ll be swallowed up in Guatemala´s dark underworld.

What about ISIS? Were you surprised to learn that some Americans joined this brutal terrorist organization? Who are they? Angry misfits? People who were just misled into thinking they could belong somewhere and have a purpose in life? Perhaps they were like Khadija, the young Syrian school teacher who was lured into joining ISIS by a Tunisian man she met online.

She joined the all-female brigade, which was started by ISIS in February. The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium estimates that as many as 15% of ISIS´ foreign recruits are women—possibly up to 200 women from 14 different countries.

Once in the brigade, Khadija started to see some troubling things . . . a beheading, a crucifixion, sexual assault against women. She saw the true face of ISIS. She saw its effect on the culture.

Amani Mustafa, a former Muslim who now shares Christ with the Arab world through a satellite broadcast, reads from the Quran and the Hadith (recorded teachings and deeds of the prophet Muhammed) and asks her viewers, “How is this affecting your culture?”

In the fourth issue of its unnervingly professional-looking magazine “Dabiq,” ISIS defends taking women and girls as sex slaves by stating that the practice is firmly established in the Quran. Anyone who wants to criticize them, they state, would be criticizing Islam and Muhammed.

How is Islam affecting culture?

Mustafa isn't afraid to voice this question. To Muslim women, she asks “Are you beaten? Abused?” She urges them to look at their lives—and the community in which they´re living—objectively, and ask themselves if that is where they belong.

Or could it be a counterfeit of what God offers?

How does a community of “living stones” affect the culture?

In Guatemala, a ministry leader supported by Christian Aid Mission started an after-school program in a slum to provide children with hot meals, tutoring, and a sense of belonging. As they are taught God´s Word, they learn Who He is and who they are. They find meaning and purpose to their lives.

In Iraq and Syria, believers are intentionally remaining—putting their lives at risk every day—so that they can share aid and the hope of Christ with the many who are suffering.

A colonel in the Kurdish army recently approached ministry workers who were distributing aid to ask them why they were doing it. When he learned that their motivation was because Christ had taught them to love people, the colonel responded, “You see the Arabs around you in the Gulf states, which claim to be religious Muslims, have not sent us anything but terrorists. But you who follow Christ send love and peace and goodness to people every day.”

And every day, indigenous ministries supported by Christian Aid Mission are calling people back home—to their God, their Maker. They are telling people about the purpose and place for which they were created, and they´re telling them how to enter into it: through Christ alone.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God´s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NASB).

You have a place in this world. Come home.