Monday, September 22, 2014

The Gospel in a Land of Mirages

Kuwait is often about appearances.  While this is true nearly everywhere, it is especially true in the Middle East.  If you go to the mall, you will find most of the people extremely dressed up looking their best.  The women are wearing makeup, the latest outfits and six inch heels.  The men are wearing sunglasses that match their shoes and perfectly trimmed facial hair. 

I work at a university, and the same is true there.  Nobody wears their pajamas to class like when I was in university, but everyone is dressed up to the point where the professors often look less presentable than the students by comparison. 

Gyms are also wildly popular here, and you see extremely fit women and really ripped men.  Steroids are not uncommon and there are areas where used needles riddle the ground.  Along with this are a bunch of diet based restaurants where you can order something that's low-calorie to fit your bodily needs.

People live in amazingly beautiful multi-floored homes with stunning gardens and indoor pools.  In the garages are brand-new BMW's, Bentley's and Porsche's that are clean and ready to take a ride on the highway.  Keeping up the Joneses takes on a whole new meaning living here.

The weight of all that pressure can be crushing.  However, the gospel frees us from being trapped by appearances.

As Christians, we know the truth is that we don't have it all together.  There are days where I feel like my marriage is falling apart, like I'm going to get fired from my job, or that I just can't generally figure out my life.

We also need to be reminded that we don't need to have it all together.  That is the gospel.  If God loved us based on our performance, we would all be miserable failures and would be destined toward hell.  In the midst of a Muslim worldview, often the emphasis is on what we do and how we appear. Ramadan, for example, is where all Muslims do a month fast.  I've talked with Muslims who told me me they cheat, but not when they are in public, because they at least want to be seen as people who fast while they are in public. 

However, God loves us based on the performance of Jesus.  Only He lived a life that was perfectly pleasing to God.  We just trust in Christ, and He will change our hearts, and we will slowly but surely become more like Him.

Tim Keller, a pastor and author, said it this way: "We are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope at the same time."

So, next time you feel crushed underneath the facade of appearances, cry out to Jesus and remember that He pierces through the outside and looks at the heart.

Photos Courtesy of Mohammad Raha

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