We have seen the collapse of Mubarak in Egypt and the regime in Tunisia. Turmoil continues in Libya and elsewhere. Great things are happening by small people -- most of whom are using nonviolence. What has happened in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere should be an inspiration for us as God's people to join together to change our world as we pray, "your kingdom come." What can we learn from the ongoing revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to bring the reign of God into the hearts of men and women all over the world?
Because women have played such an important role in these amazing events, I have decided to look at one of the women of the Bible. There are many great and incredible women in the Bible. I could speak about Eve or Sarah, Rebecca or Rachel, Deborah or Ruth, Hannah or Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary or Martha, Mary Magdalene or Lydia. The list of incredible women is long -- not only in the Bible but also throughout church history. But I want to share the story of a young woman, perhaps a girl in her teens, who is hardly known. The Bible never mentions her name although her influence was great.
Usually, when this story is told, it goes under the title "The Healing of Naaman." The heroes of the story are Naaman or the prophet Elisha. But there is a third hero in this story: the nameless girl who initiated the whole story. What do we know about her? She was an Israelite. She was a captive. She was serving as a slave in the house of the captain of the Syrian army -- the very army that captured and kidnapped her. Yet in spite of the fact that she was a captive girl, she did not lose her compassion towards her captors. This young lady lived up to the principles of the kingdom of God, hundreds of years before Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.
Naaman was an enemy. He and his men were the reason why she was a captive slave living away from home and loved ones. He should be the one hated, rebelled against, and, if possible, assassinated. However, for some strange reason, this young girl learned not to harbor hate and feelings of resentment. She recognized the humanity of the enemy and this led her to love her captors and seek their good. Jesus referred to this story when he preached in the synagogue in Nazareth:
"And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed -- only Naaman the Syrian." All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. (Luke 4:27-29)
Jesus was rebuking the ethnocentric and racial sentiments of the people of his hometown. Naaman was not an Israelite and yet Elisha was sent to minister healing to him. Through his healing God extended mercy to Gentiles, and the people of Nazareth were not ready to be reminded of that fact. Their hatred of enemies blinded their eyes to the humanity of the enemy.
What do we learn from this unsung heroine? God uses all kinds of people -- even insignificant persons. God used a prophet, a soldier, a king, a captain of the armed forces, his wife, and a poor slave girl. God used her in her limited capacity. She did not become a queen like Esther, or a leader of the army like Deborah, or a prophetess like Hulda. She simply said a few words, but she must have been convincing enough to cause the chief of the armed forces to take her words seriously. Don't ask God to use you like Paul and Peter, Martin Luther, Billy Graham, or Mother Teresa. God wants to use you as you are. God respects who you are, including all your strengths and weaknesses. One person who trusts in their God can cause a revolution.
How did all this revolution that is changing the Middle East and North Africa start? By a poor vender whose eviction on to the streets was forced by the police. In utter frustration, he set himself on fire, ending his life. That incident inspired the hearts of the Tunisians and resulted in the overthrow of the dictator.
A spark from that fire was blown to the hearts of the youth in Egypt. One of them, an unknown Google worker named Wael Ghonim, used his skills to call the youth of Egypt to a demonstration. The young man was caught and arrested, but the flame kept burning. When Wael was released after 12 days, Egypt had been changed politically. Now, the fire continues to spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It is saying to the great tyrants of our world, "Watch out! An unknown young man or woman can bring the whole regime down."
As in many Arab countries, the entire human race is in turmoil. The few among the rich minority in our world are consuming the wealth of our planet and tens of millions continue to be ravaged by hunger and disease. People are looking for answers but often the church does not deliver. Christianity needs liberating. We need a new revolution. We need to go back to Jesus, our first revolutionary, and seek his council and wisdom on how to reach our generation and future generations with the good news. To do so, God wants you to believe, do what you are able to do, and entrust the rest to God. The God of creation lives in you and desires to change the world through you. Do not despise who you are. Do not despise what you are doing. Do not underestimate how God is going to use you to bring spiritual revolution to our world!
Rev. Alex Awad is the director of the Shepherd Society, a local ministry of Bethlehem Bible College, serving marginalized families in the West Bank. He is also the pastor of East Jerusalem Baptist Church, an interdenominational and international congregation which meets in the Wadi Al-Joz neighborhood of East Jerusalem.