JIM’S BOOK BROUGHT HEALING TO MY HEART OVER MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD IN THE MIDDLE EAST
When I read “Someone Has to Die,” I couldn’t put it down. I read it till about 4:30 in the morning till I finished. It was well-written, fast-paced, action-packed, emotionally rich, and relationally challenging. It reminded me of some wild experiences I had as a child growing up in the Middle East. The best part was the LOVE displayed by characters in the book, both Muslim and Christian–that was phenomenal. It is that kind of love that brings a sense of peace to the most chaotic circumstances.
The story was beautiful and moving; but beyond that, there was, for me, a stirring in my spirit. The story churned up my own story; and I needed resolution. So first thing when I woke up I went to one of my favorite places to pray. When I was eleven years old my family moved to a war-torn Islamic country. I thought of it as a grand adventure and an adrenaline rush, even in some very scary times. As an adult I have been gradually realizing that many of my childhood ways of thinking and feeling weren’t based in reality. We were in genuine danger sometimes. And there were probably more feelings I should have been having than just, “Oh, how exciting.” So when I went to pray the morning after I finished the book, I asked God what feelings he had about those events.
I remembered one time I was riding the bus with my mom, my siblings and some other expatriates. These wild, armed men kept trying to steal a ride, (or maybe rob us), and a guy at the door would bribe them to go away. Finally, the driver got so mad because the bribe money had run out so the next time some of these thugs tried to flag us down, he just kept driving. Then it was their turn to get mad, and they shot out the side view mirror. The driver stopped then; and a bunch of wild-haired men came pouring onto the bus. One motioned for my brother to move over close to me and sat down in the aisle seat. Others found places on the stairs. We rode maybe 3 or 4 hours like that. At one point, a boy came on the bus with a basket of pomegranates and the hitchhikers stole some from him. He ran off yelling and throwing rocks back toward the bus. Typical of Middle Eastern hospitality, the thieves then offered us some! We said no. My brother and I, wide-eyed in amazement at this new home of ours, thought of it as a grand adventure, as usual.
So when I went to pray the morning after reading “Someone Has to Die,” I remembered this story, and I started to feel the compassion of Jesus towards these men. I started saying, “Isa Masih! Rahman o Rahim!” over and over again. Mostly when starting a journey or anything of significance, Muslim people say, “Bismillah Rahman o Rahim” –it means, “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” I felt the compassion of Christ, so I was saying, “Jesus Christ, the Compassionate, the Merciful!” I always KNEW we should love our enemies, but I FELT it in a new way. I had never really thought of those men on the bus as enemies anyways; they were just characters in my fantastic adventure story. Suddenly they were not just characters anymore; but people that Jesus feels great compassion for and on whom he longs to have mercy. Then I remembered the verse where Jesus says, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me….And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:40-41, NIV) And again, suddenly, I saw our journey in this war-torn country with its deep and pervasive hospitality in a new light. Could Jesus be showing His compassion and mercy by allowing people to show hospitality to us, even as children with very little understanding—to receive us—even to offer us stolen pomegranates? Could that have been a sign of his mercy even to these men?
So then, I asked God to give me compassion for some extremist Muslim men who killed the father of a very close friend. They killed him for no reason, when he was working for the good of other Muslim people. I feel God’s desire for these terrorists. His sorrow over the darkness they carry. His anger over the lies they believe that keep them in chains, bound to a lifestyle of violence and hatred. He wants them; He wants them for Himself, to set them free, and to give them peace instead of war, compassion instead of hatred, life instead of death. That’s God’s wish and hope for those men.
Jim Baton’s book tells a story—a story of people who love and of people who hate; a story of children caught in conflict; a story of what happens to people who don’t understand the love of God and those who do. By itself this book is an interesting, stimulating, thought-provoking read. But I believe that when a reader is open to dialogue with the Spirit of God about this, then the true value of what Jim has written comes to light. It is a tool in the hands of God himself–a tool I believe He will use to bring peace and reconciliation, justice and compassion, understanding and mercy, friendship and love.
How did God speak to your heart when reading SOMEONE HAS TO DIE? Write in and let others know!