Updated: Jun 19, 2019
For American Christians, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter can be opportunities for quiet reflection. It is in this season that we are invited on a pilgrimage. We meet again the central historical and spiritual truths surrounding the incarnation, the power of evil, Christ’s atoning death and victory over the powers, and the wonder of his resurrection and reign.
The invitation to prayer and fasting stands as a reminder that Christ died for us, and we also die with him. For most American Christians, this means a sharpened awareness of our self-absorption and the need for a Christ-centered focus. The battle for our mind and affection can be challenging.
Friendship and partnership with Christian brothers and sisters in Pakistan, however, remind me that our struggles as American Christians, at least in the immediacy of the present world, are light. Lent for the Christian community in Pakistan brings fear and dread. On March 15, 2015 two churches in Lahore were attacked by suicide bombers as they held Sunday services, with 17 persons killed and 70 injured. On March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday, a suicide bomber attacked the main entrance of Gulshan-e-lqbal park in Lahore. The Pakistani Taliban took credit for the attack, stating the reason for attacking this park was that Christians would be celebrating Easter in the park. 75 people were killed and more than 300 injured.
In an interview with International Christian Concern, Iiyas Bhatti, a Christian community leader, said “It seems that extremists by design, target Christians on their religious eves. We have also witnessed such attacks in previous years during the Christmas season. However, attacks during Lent or on Easter reflects a continuity of religious intolerance against Christians” (https://www.persecution.org/2019/03/28/past-tragedies).
The suffering of the church stands as a warning and witness against the complacency of American Christians. We need to be watchful of the religious freedom currently granted the American church, and alerted to the danger of accommodation with secular culture and its anti-Christian values. While terrifying, it is better to be tested in this life than to face the final judgement and be found wanting.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). I do not think he is using a metaphor. There is a very real sense that to gain eternal life, there must be self-denial and letting go. Part of that discipline for me this Lent will be letting go of self-concern and being mindful of my friends in Pakistan and India.