It’s interesting how we define ourselves. Usually it comes down to race, religion, occupation, gender, and status. And each of those categories come loaded with additional meanings. For example, by saying that you’re Chinese, people assume you eat with chopsticks, are good at math, and know kung fu. It’s not always the case, but stereotypes and preconceptions add definitions to your words.
I remember having a conversation once with a man who asked me why I was a Christian. I proceeded to share my testimony and my relationship with Jesus, and his response was that because I was Chinese, I should pursue a Chinese faith. Stay true to your roots, he said. Don’t turn to a western religion.
It’s interesting how staying true to one’s roots often outweighs spiritual truths. We should be defined by truth, not by our roots.
Recently I’ve been reading about Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani in Iran. He is currently on trial in Rasht, Iran, on accusation of apostasy (abandoning Islam). He has been asked to recant his faith in Christ and return to his Islam roots. Although he has never practiced Islam as an adult, the courts say he is guilty because of his Muslim ancestry. Here are a few articles with more information. One from Independent Catholic News, another from National Review Online, and an opportunity to write to the Iranian embassy against this case at Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
As I reflected and prayed for Pastor Yousef, I found myself wrestling with my own identity. How am I defined? Who defines me? What is my life a testimony towards?
I’m challenged by this exchange between Yousef and the judges.
“When asked to “repent” by the judges, Yousef stated, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
The judges replied , “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.”
To which he replied, “I cannot.”
And so I ask myself, is my life reflected from this verse in Romans 2:24:
“For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” (Romans 2:24 ESV)
or by Galatians 2:20?
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20)
Please pray for Pastor Yousef, and take some time to voice your support through Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
These were some thoughts from this week’s continuing series through the book of Romans. The message on Romans 2:17-29 can be found on the Sunday messages page. There is also an accompanying Bible study with leaders notes available on the searchable resources page.