I have been reading a book about Asia Bibi, the woman in Pakistan who has been sentenced to death for “blasphemy”. She is a Christian living in a Muslim world; A world in which she is not allowed to drink from a cup that belongs to a Muslim: A world that gives her lower wages for the same job, or requires even more work for less pay: A world in which she must do her best to keep her beliefs and her life as unnoticeable as possible, so as not to rankle her Muslim neighbors. She made one small slip, and found herself imprisoned and waiting to be hung. She lives in a world with lots of laws about what Christians can and cannot do. Many countries have laws about what Christians can and cannot do. Even the relatively free countries of England and Canada have laws about what a Christian can say from the pulpit or teach in the church about certain issues. In America businesses have been shut down or boycotted because of stands they have taken on moral issues. As American Christians, sometimes we respond in kind – boycotting businesses because of moral choices they have made, or seeking to publicly shame those who don’t hold to our beliefs. I am thankful that I live in this great country where I have the right to peaceful protest, to public worship, to live by my Christian beliefs without fearing being thrown in jail, or worse. I believe in using my vote to preserve these rights, my dollars to support just causes, and even my ability to protest if the opportunity arises. These are things that Asia Bibi could not even dream of doing. They are things that may not always be a part of our American life.
There are some things, though, that Christians have the freedom to do in every country. There are actions that can be taken that no law is against. We find these things in Galatians 5:22. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Even as we see the rights of Americans eroding away, we can still reflect the fruit of the Spirit. Even in countries where our words are censored in the pulpit, we can still conduct our lives with these character traits. Even in countries where the laws are strict on Christians, or where Christianity is totally outlawed, the fruit of the Spirit can be expressed freely. Even in Asia’s filthy, tiny cell where she awaits her death while she hopes for a miracle, there is no law against these things. She experienced this first hand when a woman came into her cell on Christmas day, cleaned the excrement off her floor, and gave her a piece of Christmas cake. No law against such kindness. (I should clarify that while there is no law against these things lawless men may still seek to take your life. Asia experienced this first hand, as well, when two political figures who spoke out in her defense were assassinated.)
I have been thinking about this a lot the last few days, and how it applies to those of us who find our lives restricted in one way or another. I have the tendency to view my life in terms of what I can’t do anymore. I fixate on something that for the moment expresses complete freedom to me, and I dream about it for days (at the moment that happens to be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro). The more I live in the world of things I want to do and can’t, the more I resent the confines my life has now. It’s a bad road to go down. First of all, in comparison to a lot of people, I have plenty of freedom. Second of all, this line of thinking causes me to forget the promise I have in Christ that everything that comes into my life is for my good and God’s glory. There is nothing in my life as a caregiver for my husband that keeps me from being loving, joyful, full of His peace, long-suffering, kind, good, faithful, gentle and full of self control. Nothing. Not only am I free to develop this fruit, my present environment gives me great opportunity to practice!
This is also true for those who are being cared for. I can only imagine how hard it is for Strokeman to face every day the things he can no longer do. Just today he had to listen as someone else drove their tractor around our land doing what he once did – what he once loved to do. I can’t imagine what it must be like for my dad to lose his ability to do such simple things as walk across the yard without his ankle giving way. How he must miss the therapeutic hours he spent working in his wood shop. Even though I try, I have little concept of what it must be like for my friend, Kathy to never get to eat at a pot luck, or even risk eating food that someone else prepares because of her allergies. And what of my sister-in-law who sees the looks on people’s faces as she sports her loose clothes (for her costochondritis), and her hiking boots (for a weak ankle) and wants to say, “would you like the name of my stylist?” It is hard to be faced with all the things that other people get to do, and we don’t. But there are not laws, no allergies, no medical diagnoses that prevent us from walking in the Spirit, and working to see His fruit developed in us.
Against such there is no law. NO LAW. I can do all these things. I can conduct my life in this way, and no one can stop me. It won’t be easy. I will have to fight my selfish tendencies and my defeatist attitude. But if I can keep my wits about me, I can bear this fruit, by the grace of God, and not only will no one try to stop me, most people will be relieved.