Lessons from the Church in Pakistan: Dependence on God
Q: Can you give me a brief history of the church in Pakistan?
Before Pakistan even came into being (it used to be part of India), Christianity came to India through the disciple Thomas. Fast forward to when India was a colony of Britain, and we had numerous Christian denominations come into India. William Carey was a prominent missionary to India in the early 1800s.
In the 1940s, Muslims in India were trying to form their own country because the Indian people were persecuting them. Because they needed more numbers to form their own country, the Muslims approached the Christians to join them. After all, there are more theological similarities between Christianity and Islam than between Christianity and Hinduism.
The founder of Pakistan told the Christian people they would have the same rights, equality, religious freedom, property, church buildings, etc. In 1947, Pakistan (officially the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”) came into being. However, after the death of the founder, the Muslim people started amending the laws and putting restrictions on the Christian people. For example, Muslims will not allow Christian men to marry their daughters. And there are blasphemy laws in place where no one can speak against Islam, even if Muslims are totally able to say whatever they want against Christianity.
Still, Christianity is increasing in Pakistan. Muslims are noticing that Christians are honest and can be good employees.
Q: How would you describe Pakistani Christians?
Pakistani Christians are not necessarily well-educated (e.g. arguing why Jesus is the Son of God). But even though they can have a somewhat shallow knowledge of the Bible, they are typically very strong on their faith. They are not easily swayed by Muslim theology. They know Jesus, and no one can move them from their faith.
In America, Christians can know a whole lot, yet their faith can be very shallow. In Pakistan, they might not know a whole lot about their faith, but their faith is very strong. They can be threatened, persecuted, kicked out of their job, and even die for Christ, but they aren’t all that afraid.
Q: Do you know why the faith tends to go so deep in Pakistan?
It just feels like they have a personal kind of relationship with Jesus.
They don’t know very much about theology or philosophy. They maybe haven’t read the Bible from cover to cover. Sometimes the most educated, religious people who know a lot can be the most concerned about avoiding the risks. But most Pakistani Christians don’t pay so much attention to the risks. For example, if someone has fallen down in the street, and we’ve all been told, “There’s a coronavirus, don’t get involved,” the Christians are still going to go help the person.
I look at those people and think, Man, they have the same kinds of emotions and feelings as everybody else. And their life is just as important as my life. But they take big risks for Christ. Encouraged by the courage of my fellow Pakistani Christians, I decided to have an outdoor devotional meeting over here every day during the coronavirus. At first, I was hesitant. But I saw the faith of my fellow Christians here. I said, These people, they don’t know as much theology as I do, yet they can be so strong in their faith, so what’s wrong with me? I know so much.
Some people might think that they are stupid for having so much faith. I don’t think so. These people help me to trust in God. These people are bold. They’re encouraging me to step out. I’m teaching them, but really they are teaching me. If there are some circumstances in which I have to go and take a risk for Christ, I believe God can take care of me.
Pakistani Christians can be threatened, persecuted, kicked out of their job, and even die for Christ, but they aren’t all that afraid.
I was asked to do the funeral of a dear friend. I knew people were going to come, hug, and cry on my shoulder. I realized, if I’m doing this for the sake of the gospel, God will take care of me. When I went, I didn’t keep them from hugging me. It was a big test of faith when we are being told to avoid people, not shake hands…sometimes you have to totally depend on God.