As Christians our hearts are heavy with grief for those whose loved ones were murdered in the hills of Afghanistan this past week. Ten families share the sorrow that grief brings when someone you love dies in an unexpected and shocking way. These families have expressed the pride they feel for the sacrifices their loved ones made in order to live in Afghanistan and use their skills and talents to minister to the needs of the poorest of poor people. The gifts of their lives speak loud and clear of the love of Jesus that lived in their hearts. Indeed they followed the command to love not merely in words, but in their deeds. When they lost their lives they were returning from one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan having treated people with eye ailments in small, remote villages in the mountains. Without the sacrifice of these ten people, most of these people would have never received care for their eyes nor seen a doctor.
One of the men on the team was named Tom Little. He was an optometrist who had spent 30 years of his life living in Afghanistan through the Russian invasion and the civil war. He was one of many Christians deported when the Taliban took over. After the Taliban were defeated, he returned to resume his ministry. Tom was from Delmar, New York. He and his wife had raised their three daughters in Afghanistan. He was fluent in Dari, one of the many dialects spoken in the country. One of the directors of IAM said that Tom’s loss was one that could not be replaced. Tom Little spent his life answering the call of Christ to love others as Christ had loved him. Through his skills, Tom was able to help people see things like they never could before.
As I reflected this weekend on the lives and deaths of these Christians, I began to realize that Tom’s work is not finished. He continues to be used by Christ to help people see things like they never have before. This time he is helping poor Christians around the world. Not the ones like he helped in Afghanistan, but some of the poorest of Christians. They live in unexpected places surrounded by great material possessions. They are poor not because they lack things, but because they lack vision. Today Tom is helping people like you and me to recapture our vision. If we allow Him, God can work through Tom Little to help us see things like God sees them. As we think of the cost of life and limb, the sorrow and grief that death has brought, the fear that the enemies of the cross have sought to instill in us; along with the anger and resentment we feel towards our enemies, it will be easy for us to excuse ourselves as we forget Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. Do you remember?
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” It would be easy to forget the time when Jesus gave us this command, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12, 44-45a, NIV)
One religious writer asked the question he thought American Christians would be asking; should Christians continue to do missionary activity abroad or does the price- in blood and dollars really worth it?” I would disagree. The real question is do we have the vision of Tom Little, Jim Elliot, and thousands of other Christian martyrs throughout the ages. Do we see the mission of Jesus as our mission? Considering the price that Jesus paid for our salvation, do we share His vision for saving the world?
Perhaps it is time for us as American Christians to adjust our view of the world. Have the things of this world obstructed your vision? Perhaps through the sacrifices of Jim Little and the other nine Christians who gave their lives, we can renew our vision of a world in desperate need of a Savior. Perhaps we will renew our commitment and efforts to take the Gospel around the world to people who are lost and enslaved to sin no matter what it costs. Will we meet the challenge to set the captives free? Will God’s love for others be demonstrated in our actions? Will we allow God to use Tom Little and his team help us see like we’ve never seen before? Are we willing to see the world like God sees it?
In Sunday’s sermon, we talked about how the people of the town saw the poor man possessed by the demons Legion. Then we saw how Jesus saw him. That is the difference in vision.
Today we see bearded men with guns, our enemies, filled with hate and violence, ready to destroy themselves and anyone who gets in their way. But we have to ask ourselves, what does Jesus see when He looks at them? If I surrender to His will, how might Jesus change my vision of them? After all, didn’t Jesus demonstrate God’s love by dying on the cross for sinners like you and me? I don’t know about you, but the Lord has a lot of work to do in my life before I can see like that. Praise the Lord He is willing to change me and you if we will only believe.
God continues to transform us so that we see things a little more like He does every day. Perhaps Tom Little’s work in our world is continuing. Maybe his last patients are yet to be healed.