Sunday, 7 February 2016

What if I were arrested for being a Christian, will I be convicted?

What if I were arrested on charges of being a Christian, will there be enough to convict me?

I recalled that morning when they came to my house just before the break of dawn. Three men in suit smiled coldly at me and told me to come with them. I was shocked. I didn't know what to expect. I was thrown into the deep, anxious and trembling. But I knew I had to comply. So I followed them into the car and was blindfolded.

It took some time to arrive at the place they had put me in. It was an arraignment and I stood in the accused box facing the judge whose face was unclear to me. There were some other people in the room, the jury perhaps, but they too escaped my immediate recognition. In any event, my mind was too overwhelmed to bother or to take particular note.

The first thing that was read to me were the charges. They were prepared by the prosecution seated diagonally across the room from where I stood. One by one, the charges for being a Christian were read out. One after another, I was expected to listen to the charges, to acknowledge them and to enter a plea for each one. I was shaking when the first charge was read. A chill rolled down my spine like the serrated edge of an icepick.

The first charge accused me of loving no other God except the God who created the heavens and the earth, the universe and beyond, and everything that the eyes could see and could not, the visible and the invisible. As those words were read out, my mind was scrambling to recollect, to relate. Alas, it drew an inexplicable blank.

Then comes the second charge. It accused me of loving my neighbor as myself, regardless of race, nationality, religion, color or creed, and be it friends or foes, the rich or the poor, the outcasts, and the strangers I meet. Again, the words sank deep into my soul and I felt a surge of inadequacy from within. All my mind could muster at that moment was the refrain of Chesterton: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

At this point of the proceedings, I asked for a break, a time-out, an adjournment, but the prosecution objected and the judge overruled my request. He said the trial has to take precedence. It has to end the same day it started. With that, the third charge was read out. This time the citations grew louder in my conscience, searing even. It started with these words like with all the other charges,:-

"You are charged for being a Christian in that you lived your life to follow Christ, in season and out, without compromise or conditions for self-profit or when its convenient, living to give as Christ had given of himself completely, wholly and radically, for one and all, and in living, your life is a blessing to anyone who crosses your path."

This time, I couldn't wait for the reading of the charge to be completed. I was groaning inside, hoping that all this would come to an end soon. It was taking forever from where I was standing. From thereon, my mind was in a state of confusion. I had lost my focus as I struggled to recall my past, that is, to recall the life I have been living as a Christian.

The other charges were accordingly read out to me that day. Ten altogether. And the accusations by this time took a life of their own. There were charges about living the exemplary Christian life in humility, gratitude and devotion, putting others first before myself, serving with joy and hope, being faithful in the little things, striving for what is true, pure, right, admirable, praiseworthy, and lovely, and leading a worthy life free from jealousy, hatred and petty squabbles, and consistent in words and deeds, and in Christlikeness.

After all that, when all the charges were exhausted against me, I was supposed to enter a plea. But I was at a lost. I didn't know what to say - what's more to enter a plea. Am I guilty or not? Did I live up?

I requested for more time to reflect, but the prosecution somehow skipped the entering of the plea and presented to the jury boxes after boxes of what seemed like mountain-load of evidence about my life, how I have lived it, my intentions, motives, thoughts and deeds.

It took only a while for the jury to digest all that and for the foreman to pass a slip of paper to the judge. The judge then asked me to stand up as he read out the verdict:

"Concerning all the charges brought against you, Michael Han, for being a Christian, all ten of them, not one charge has been proven and satisfied beyond reasonable doubt. The jury of your peers and the Court of your conscience therefore find you not guilty. You are free to go. You are free to continue living the life that you have been living. Prosecution's case dismissed."

That day I left the Court tormented by a certain numbing ambivalence. I didn't know whether I should be relieved, glad that is, or ashamed. Clearly, I was not guilty of all charges. I had failed to live up to the Christian ideals. I had missed it by a long shot, by miles even. And while my flesh took little notice, my soul was empty and my spirit felt like a neglected wasteland.

I knew at that time what I needed was less of me and more of God. I needed to go back to my first love, and to embrace it wholeheartedly. I needed to wake up from my slumber. For I have unwittingly become my own prosecution after my acquittal and these words sounded the death knell in my spirit man: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 

This realization - a new dawning - was empowering. At this point, my relief soon turned to shame, and my shame turned to hope and my hope to purpose. And while I walked out of Court a broken man, yet I am no less a man who was once lost but now, truly found. Cheerz.

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