At Christmastime, we’re reminded that our God is the God of great reversals. As we set out humble nativity scenes, we may forget how unthinkable it is that the King of Kings lowered himself not just to be born in human flesh, but in a lowly stable amidst the braying of animals and the smell of manure.
Our God seems to love reversals such as this. Jesus tells us that the first shall be last, the least will be the greatest in the kingdom. He elevates repentant sinners and tax-collectors above Pharisees and wealthy leaders. And through His apostle Paul, He reminds us that He chose the foolish things of this world, the weak, and the despised, to show the glories of his wisdom.
A recent story coming from Pakistan seems to fit this pattern exactly. In late October, at Islamabad’s International Islamic University, an Islamic suicide bomber tried to attack the women’s side of campus. But there worked a lowly janitor, Pervaiz Masih, who like so many of the 2 percent Christian minority in this 95 percent Muslim country are relegated to the most menial jobs in society-garbage collectors, sewage workers, and servants.
The suicide bomber was making his way to a cafeteria of some 300 to 400 women students, when Masih came between him and his goal. Masih is a common name among the Christian minority-it means Messiah. And on October 20th, Masih certainly followed in the footsteps of Jesus, the true Messiah. He refused to let the bomber pass. In the process the bomb detonated, killing Masih, the bomber, and three girls nearby. Meanwhile, the 300 to 400 Muslim girls inside the cafeteria were unharmed.
In the midst of the rubble from the explosion lay two martyrs. A so-called Muslim “martyr” had maliciously murdered others. Meanwhile, a Christian martyr had laid down his life for his brethren. A Christian died to save Muslims from a fellow Muslim.
CNN reported Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik, a rector of the university, as saying that Pervez Masih “rose above the barriers of caste, creed and sectarian terrorism. Despite being a Christian, he sacrificed his life to save the Muslim girls.”
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that not “despite being a Christian” but because of being a Christian, Masih laid down his life.
As news cameras showed the garbage-strewn cemetery where Masih is buried, I couldn’t help but think of God’s great reversals. A King born in a manger. A hero buried beneath garbage. And I couldn’t help thinking how one day this upside-down world would be turned on it its head at the second Advent, when Christ comes in glory.
In the meantime, pray for persecuted Christians in Pakistan who suffer under unjust blasphemy laws, and who as recently as this past July were murdered, beaten, and had their homes set on fire simply for bearing the name of Jesus.
Pray that Masih’s heroic actions will help many Pakistanis to see Christians in a different light. And pray that Islamic extremists would have their eyes opened to what it means to be a true martyr, that is, to give one’s life to save others, not to give one’s life to kill others.