Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Christian Hijab: Two signs that show you follow Jesus

I ran several errands in my local community the other day. While out and about, I noticed several women wearing a hijab (Muslim head scarf). My Christian friend wears a hijab since she lives in a Muslim country and works among Muslim people. She wears it as a sign of respect to their culture.
However, a woman only wears a hijab in the heart of Midwest America if she’s Muslim. She may wear the hijab out of a sense of obligation or the force of habit but – rather intentional or not – if she wears a hijab in my local culture, she is proclaiming her religious beliefs.

I stood in line at Target, considering one such woman in line behind me. I wondered to myself, “If I had to consistently wear something that so publicly declared my religious beliefs, would I do so? What would I wear?”
Would I wear my Christian hoodie with the clever tagline? Would I wear a cross necklace?

Would I wear it if my religious system made it a requirement? After all, I'm not very good at following the rules. Tell me I have to do something; it’s a sure fire way to keep me from doing it.

Here’s the reality, though. Following Christ doesn’t require any outer sign on my part. I don’t have to wear a head covering, fix my hair in a certain style, make any marks on my skin, or perform any other outer religious modifications to who I am.

I can be me.

You could place me in a line up with several other women and you’d see no distinguishing marks of my decision to follow Christ.

During the times of the Old Testament, God did require an outer mark – circumcision. “This is My covenant, which you are to keep, between Me and you and your offspring after you: Every one of your males must be circumcised” (Genesis 17:10).

Even during that time, however, God said that sign would eventually change. He later wrote of a then future time when “The Lord God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). We’re living in the midst of that fulfillment now, but that’s another article.

This verse from Deuteronomy sums up a lot about signs of our relationship with Jesus. We base our relationship on two signs – an inner circumcision of the heart and a little thing called love.

Inner Circumcision of the Heart

Paul recalled Moses’ words from Deuteronomy when he wrote, “circumcision is of the heart – by the Spirit” (Romans 2:29). A cross around our neck isn’t a sign of our salvation; the sign is the presence of the Spirit of God within us. “When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).

He marks us as a follower of Christ in a way that’s more impacting and permanent than any tattoo could ever be.

Going back to the idea of placing me in a line up to pick out the Christian… The presence of the Spirit of God within us isn’t very visible to the world is it? That’s where love comes in.

It’s all about love

God left us with another kind of sign. This one also comes from inside us – love for God and for each other.

Jesus emphasized this transition from outer signs to inner transformation when a Jewish rabbi asked Him which command from the Old Testament is the greatest. He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Christianity doesn’t require me to wear a certain headscarf or any other outer modification or adornment. It asks that I love God. People aren’t able to see that one quite so easily, though, so it doesn’t end there. Jesus made it really clear when He said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). When you look at love in the Bible, you quickly realize that God’s kind of love looks a lot like service and sacrifice.

It flows with generosity.

It aches with compassion.

It's exhausted by perseverance.

It dares with kindness.

What’s my sign?

Wear a cross necklace if you want. Enjoy your Christian t-shirts with clever taglines on them. But those things aren’t going to reach the world. Your waitress or store clerk might give you a little, “Hey, I like your shirt” quietly indicating that they are a believer as well. That’s probably all your outer sign is going to accomplish.

The world is changed and lives are transformed when people see us serving and sacrificing – in short, loving – in a way that’s only possible by the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives. The sacrificial love of God will mark us as different.

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