How much has your faith cost you lately? For most of us, the cost at Easter is the price of a few chocolate bunnies for the kids, or the bill for a new Easter outfit.
But during Lent, and particularly today, Good Friday, as we reflect on the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would do well to consider how much faith is costing our fellow Christians around the world—especially in Africa.
In Sudan, a holy war has been raging for nearly twenty years between the Muslim north and the Christian south. So how high is the price of obedience? Very high indeed. In Sudan, the cost of faithfulness is freedom. Among the battle tactics the North employs is kidnapping Christians and selling them into slavery.
The cost of faithfulness is family. A year ago, government planes bombed a church-run grade school in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. More than a dozen children—who were just beginning their English lessons—were killed, along with their teacher.
The cost of faithfulness is dignity: Kidnapped women and children are often gang-raped by government soldiers, and forced into concubinage. When their clothing wears out, they must endure the shame of nakedness.
The cost of faithfulness is hunger: The government destroys crops and keeps international famine relief from reaching southern Sudan. The cost of faithfulness is health: Children weak from hunger succumb to disease—diseases for which no medicines are available.
The cost of faithfulness is also the loss of home: Christians are being driven off their lands by a government greedy to gets its hands on the oil that lies beneath.
And the cost of faithfulness is often life itself: Two million Sudanese Christians have already been killed—starved or slaughtered for refusing to convert to Islam. We can’t say Jesus didn’t warn us: He promised that the cost of faithfulness might be everything we have.
Here in the West, most of us pay pocket change: Following Christ means we may lose a job, or we may have to endure the likes of Ted Turner calling us names. In Sudan and elsewhere, Christians pay a much higher price: Freedom, family, and life itself.
The people of Sudan know the high cost of obedience—but they also know the joy. An American who recently traveled to Sudan with an anti-slavery group spoke to a young girl who had just been redeemed out of years of slavery. The American asked: “Now that you’re free, what are you going to do?” The young girl replied: “I want to see my father—and I want to go to church.”
For most folks, Easter is a time to stuff the shopping cart full of goodies, hide the Easter eggs for the kids, don your Easter bonnet—and then grumble if the sermon goes too long. Well, I suggest you and I instead stop, take stock of our blessings, and think especially of those this day around the world who are suffering for their faith, particularly the persecuted church in Sudan.
And as we think about them, it will give new meaning to the Cross, and the event we commemorate this very day.