You should hear some Pakistani Christian women sing Psalm 139. It only takes 4 minutes. Don’t stop listening until you hear the second song – in English! As you listen, read the Psalm below and check out the news.
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139 ESV
In the USA we grieve that morality is declining along with church attendance. We grieve that the culture is losing its moral compass and we grieve that cultural pressure is leading to the enactment of unjust laws. When the choices on election day are not to our liking, we grieve and refuse to vote for anyone.
Christians in Pakistan, where the moral, legal, and political pressures are much more severely skewed against Christians than in the US, nevertheless find the grace and courage to sing Psalm 139. We must find the same courage, and what’s more, because our Constitution gives every citizen much more power than Pakistani citizens have, we must live our prayers into the culture by acting and speaking and voting and donating to candidates and causes that will expand the religious liberty of all citizens. It is not useful to grieve. It is only useful to pray and act. God does not call Christians to be marshmallows; he calls us to live our faith, and Christians in the US are privileged to live in a country where our civic duty and our Christian desire to be a force for good are in sync. Because of our Constitution, we have the freedom to speak and act and vote.
The founders of the USA did not establish a state church, which is a blessing to us, their posterity. They expected, however, that the absence of a state church would allow more churches to thrive. They expected that the moral energy of the churches would translate into active, outspoken participation in the cultural discussions of ethics and morals, and they expected that the influence of religious moral perspective would permeate the government through the power of the vote, electing people of good moral character and personal integrity to office. They never thought that people would believe their influence would be felt if they pouted silently because of their distaste for the content of the conversation. They never intended for citizens to demonstrate their outrage by refusing to vote. People who do not speak and do not vote have zero influence on the outcome of things. ZERO.
Today, find a quiet place where you can sing Psalm 139 yourself – or simply pray it silently if singing is not your thing. Pay attention to the words. Ask yourself what God is saying to you about the state of affairs in the US. Ask yourself if you have the courage to sing and pray your praise as confidently as the Christians in Pakistan who risk life and limb and property by simply claiming the name of Christ.
What do you think? Could you stand strong as a Christian in Pakistan? Is anything preventing you from standing strong as a Christian in the USA?