Two and a half years ago, on the front edge of the so-called Arab Spring, the nation of Egypt convulsed as protestors engaged in mass demonstrations and the government responded with force and curfews. Eventually the government collapsed, the protestors celebrated their freedom, and the hard, risky work of writing a constitution, reforming a government, and launching a new era began.
This weekend the launch appears to have failed, as one government has fallen, another perhaps is stillborn, and among the people to be governed chaos and violence threaten. A “Day of Rage” was planned. Initial reports for the day’s unfolding make us weep.
We weep because our Lord weeps. Millions of image-bearers live in peril that seems to grow worse by the hour. We weep because among the millions are brothers and sisters in Christ whose faith now must stand a terrible test. We also weep because the love of our Lord reaches toward all, even those most hardened against it. We weep because precisely that love, so fiercely rejected, still offers the only solid and enduring hope for the future.
So, friends, we pray for Egypt. We pray for the obvious, of course. But we also pray in the light of our Scriptures, and the imaginative hope they can generate. Consider the following.
Egypt convulses with holy and unholy impulses these days. Freedom and the end of tyranny number among the holy. Mob violence and vengeance among the unholy. Sadly, many innocents suffer unspeakably when caught in the cross-hairs by the convergence of these competing impulses.
Christ-followers, whose hearts beat in sync with Jesus’ will celebrate every holy impulse and repudiate every unholy impulse. We will pray and work for freedom and the liberation of captives and we will stand against the mob (and world?) to reject violence and vengeance as solutions for the way forward. In this immediate crisis hour, we will pray for restraint and relief for all who are suffering.
At the least, and perhaps also at the most, Christ-followers will pray. They/we will enter into the spiritual fray that undergirds the tangible political, social, cultural and religious struggles now in play. We will enter the deep pathos of the Father whose heart breaks over the oppression and repression of people and the brokenness and hurt caused by their uprising. And out of such pathos we cry out to God for the coming of his kingdom, for the realization of Egypt’s best as God conceives it and plans for it.
It is helpful to consider the story of God’s way with us and our world as a way of fueling prayerful imaginative pleadings for this great land that plays a prominent role in the story. For example:
The story attests to Egypt’s place among the nations as highly developed and civilized, as a center of learning and inquiry, a place where human creativity and accomplishment flourished. Surely it would please our Father to restore Egypt as a place where his beauty and creativity once again find a home for the world to see and enjoy.
The story tells us how Egypt became a place of refuge for the hungry and needy in times of drought and famine, among them our ancestors in the faith. Surely, our Father would love to pour his bounty over this land and through her to the world’s needy.
The story also sadly reports that at times Egypt’s place of refuge also became a house of bondage, a place where those in power assuaged their fear of strangers among them by oppressing and enslaving them. Surely our Father’s hand would protect and provide for the strangers there (and everywhere) and save both the powerful and powerless from corruption.
The story celebrates Egypt as the place where awesome acts of God set people free, free to be who God created them to be, free to receive and share blessing with the whole world. Surely, our Father delights in setting captives free, and even now works to that end and invites us to join him!
The story pictures Egypt as the place of refuge when Herod, King of the Jews, sought to kill the newborn Messiah Jesus. Surely, our Father would smile on Egypt’s welcoming the One whose rule brings freedom and life that will be wonderfully complete, healthy and joyful.
And, as the story launched off the pages of sacred text, early first and second century Christ-followers came to Egypt to establish centers for vibrant Christian community and mission. Surely, our Father would claim this nation, now embroiled in such threatening chaos, as a glorious venue for showing and sharing his love and power with all the world’s peoples and nations!
O Abba, Lord and King of all, may you focus your grace upon this place and its peoples and do even more than we can ask or imagine. Amen!