BY BRITTON GAIL (@BRITTON_GAIL)
One of the most spectacularly audacious statements made by John the Baptist about the God man, Jesus Christ: “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” Here one finds John conveying the undiluted quality of his allegiance toward Christ; the ‘friends of the bridegroom’ devotes themselves to affection-based obedience. John is not corresponding sterile robotic communication from a stoic God; rather, he is confirming his resolute commitment to the supreme joy of his heart. At the height of his popularity and ministry success, he was okay with shrinking back in Jesus’ shadow now that his job was done. Jesus must increase, but John (and we) must decrease. It is one thing for John the Baptist to announce the first coming of the Lord, but it is quite another thing for John to be happy about becoming second-fiddle to his younger cousin’s burgeoning ministry.
That John the Baptist did not feel the sting then means we can joyfully serve the marriage of the Lamb now. Will we cherish His ambitions above our own? Love for Jesus must produce joyfully ambitious ‘hands committed to the plow.’ If He is to receive an inheritance forever from every tribe, tongue, and nation, why is it a historically marginalized people group can still say they have ‘no friends but the mountains’? The Western Church, which gathers every Sunday morning to sing of its love for Jesus. will never enter into ‘John the Baptist’ joy, as it were, until love for Jesus manifests itself as love for marginalized peoples whose ‘only friends are mountains.’ Love for God forges affection-based obedience to God. If we love what He loves, are we not grieved He does not have what He wants? He wants the Kurds to know Him. He wants blood-bought Kurds “with Him where He is.” Should not the ‘friends of the bridegroom’ thus become ‘better friends than mountains’?
We in the West have enjoyed centuries of Scripture saturation. Imagine a LifeWay Christian Bookstore opening up on a corner market in Iraq. No? We have bathed in access to His Word. Do we rejoice in His voice like John the Baptist did? Nor are we not starving. Yet, fat as the West is on the meat of His word and the luxury of His voice, too few have lived to ‘decrease’ so He may ‘increase.’ If this weren’t true, half the world wouldn’t be living in Gospel poverty. The statistics betray our ambitions.
Jesus described His joyful ambitions to His disciples, saying, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I might take it up again.” In other words, Jesus elaborates, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Marginalized people groups looking to mountains as friends presents both a recognition of the our failure to produce authentic Gospel friendship to those who have never heard the Name, and represents an effectual opportunity for those with the Gospel to love beyond the lonely mountains. Christ laid down His life not only for Western people groups, but also those who live in the hardest, darkest Islamic communities the earth has to offer. And these Kurds are not the darkest; not even close. They are ripe for the revelation of Christ as Messiah.
The Church in the West is being given an extraordinary opportunity by God to be a walking witness of Jesus’ mercy. Many Kurds love Americans. America saved them from the genocidal madness of Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, and intervened again in the most recent Iraqi war. We might have mixed feelings about these campaigns, but the Kurds who are alive today don’t. There is an open door for Americans to prove the love of Christ transcends the friendship of mountains; namely, that through Christ’s people, the love of God may counteract centuries of hatred inflicted upon them. These are a people who are desperate for authentic international community. They have survived against insurmountable odds, and remain all but alone.
If there was ever a time or a people group so ready for an experiential encounter with God through His people, it is now. Many Christians will look upon the plight of the Kurds, say a prayer, and move on with their own idea of the will of God for their life without blinking. We’re asking you to blink. Don’t just scroll past their plight. Don’t altogether ignore the opportunity. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have confused essential discipleship with vocational ministry, as though the Great Commission is exempt to laymen, and I wonder if we’ve forgotten that we get King Jesus when the job is done.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” At the end of my life I want Christ to look at my feet, as weird as feet are, and say, “Well done, you have beautiful feet.” John the Baptist proved to us even through his short ministry that any cost of beautiful feet is tempered by unrivaled joy. This means the begrudging spirit toward missional ‘vocation’ dies when obedience to Jesus commands is understood as holy friendship—that ministers of the Gospel of the Kingdom get to be friends of the Bridegroom. We get to serve Him in this way. Is He enough for us? Friendship to the Bridegroom thus demands the Church be better friends than mountains. We have the chance to change the Kurds’ testimony—from lonely, afflicted, overlooked, forgotten, to seen and sacrificially served.
Friends, we are the friends of the Bridegroom, and as His friends, let us “love our lives not unto death” for the sake of rescuing more of Jesus’ friends. Prison may come, having one’s head displayed on a platter may follow; but the cost of friendship with Jesus in this passing age fails to compare with the eternal joy for those whose friendship remained true till the end.
Britton Gail and his family give leadership to an FAI outpost in a Muslim-majority country, living to give a witness of Jesus to the unreached and unengaged. Britton is a contributing writer to FAI Publishing, endeavoring to encourage those with access to the Gospel to share their treasure with those who don’t. He can be reached at Britton@faimission.org.
- John 3:29-30
- Luke 9:62
- The Kurds have an ancient proverb they continue to quote today: ‘We have no friends but the mountains.’
- John 17:24
- John 10:16-17
- John 15:13
- Matthew 24:14; 28:18
- Romans 10:14-15
- Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15
- Revelation 12:11
- Matthew 14:1-12
All scriptures are quoted from English Standard Version:
ESV. English Standard Version, The Holy Bible. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2001. Print