Lessons from a Man Running for his Life

The Story of Josef

If you haven’t read it, you need to. You need to dive into Azam Ahmed’s article in the New York Times. It gives us a glimpse into the world of Josef, a newly-converted Afghan Christian. Right now, he’s running for his life, from his family, from his government, from his homeland. This isn’t an conceptual article. It’s real. It’s got dirt under it’s finger nails. I’ve learned a lot from these recent events in Josef’s life, the hardship and austerity of what it means to make a u-turn, forsaking idolatry and turning to Christ. Here are just a couple things I’ve gleaned through reading about this man. 

Keep a record. “Knowing the stakes of his secret, he put digital copies of his asylum paperwork and mementos of his conversion and baptism on a flash drive he carried in his pocket, finding some comfort in having them with him.” The remembrance keeps him anchored no matter what is thrown his way. It’s evidence for himself, not for his accusers, but for his own recollection. We all need something like this, a kind of serious sentimentality that orients us towards our identity in Christ. People, you need to keep a journal, or something. 

Love the sojourner. Reading the article, I think, why didn’t someone take this guy in, love and protect him? He’s wandering. He needs a refuge. Where are his brothers and sisters in Christ, his Church? My heart aches for this guy and many others who have chosen the path of suffering over comfort, men and women who are “destitute, afflicted––mistreated of whom the world was not worthy––wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Heb. 11:38. 

Religious piety + nationalism = oppression. “In a country of crippling poverty, ethnic fault lines and decades of war, Islamic piety offers many Afghans a rare thread of national solidarity. To reject Islam is seen as tantamount to treason.” Just a little politics here. In Josef’s world, there is no healthy religious liberty. He’s oppressed because of the worldview system of Islam, an all-encompassing, tribal religion that is enforced by the state. Pure evil. Sometimes, I forget that men and women, individuals made in the image and likeness of God, like Josef, bear the brunt of it all this. Pray for them. Also, remember that we, as Americans open to the same temptation. Remember that, as Scott Hildreth recently said, “one of the greatest hinderances to the Great Commission is a misplaced sense of nationalism.” Remember your allegiance is to Christ. 

Jesus saves. Who is the hero of this article? It’s not Josef. It’s Jesus. Read the end of the article. It’s’ hard to believe that in the midst of so much turmoil there can exist inexplicable comfort. Even though Josef’s body is in prison, “his soul is free.” This is good news for all of us. 

Pray for Josef. Josef isn’t alone. Many others across the world are bearing the same burden of oppression and persecution, as our brothers and sisters. Remember them in your prayers to God, especially as we are giving thanks for our religious freedom and liberty.

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Will works for the Center for Great Commission at Southeastern as the assistant program coordinator for Global Studies for the College. He’s had experience working and living in West Africa and Eastern Europe. Currently, he’s a Th.M. student at SEBTS.
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