Written By Morentalisa Hutapea, Indonesia
Some weeks ago, in my hometown Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, a would-be suicide bomber charged into a church while it was holding a Sunday service and tried to detonate his vest. By God’s grace, the bomb failed to detonate, and the congregation was able to restrain him and subsequently hand him over to the police.
I was shocked to learn that the 17-year-old suspect came from my high school. This bothered me so much that I was not able to sleep that night. It was extremely troubling to know that people around us might be out to harm us, our families, and our churches.
Though no one was hurt, the incident prompted me to wonder where we could find safety in this world.
For decades, North Sumatra has been home to millions of Indonesian Christians. I come from the Batak tribe, which originated in this province. We have the largest tribal church in Indonesia, the Batak Christian Protestant Church. To have an attempted suicide attack in this so-called Christian pocket shows that ultimately, no place is safe for Christians in Indonesia.
We have been pretty fortunate. Not once has my church been bombed, burned, closed, or destroyed, like many churches in other regions. My worst experience with radical religious groups was when I was meeting a representative from another religious group to discuss the rise of radicalism. Outside the room, some members of an extremist organization were throwing glasses and bottles and yelling.
I do not know how long we will enjoy this so-called “religious freedom” in Medan. It is possible that suicide bombers might sneak into my church and wreak havoc someday.
So where can we find safety? Nowhere.
Many people go to great lengths to obtain a sense of security, such as working hard to ensure their financial security. And because we dread losing it, some of us may refuse to take risks in following God or serving others. We are imprisoned by this false illusion of safety, and end up moving nowhere.
But safety is temporary. We have no clue when evil might turn our world upside down or threaten our safety. I’ve realized that we cannot guarantee our safety no matter where we are on earth.
We have this comfort, however: safety can be found everywhere as well.
True safety can only be found in God’s presence. It is the assurance that whatever difficulties we encounter in life, God’s power will be there to sustain us. Paul understood this when he wrote to the church in Phillipi, saying, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
We should not be chasing the idol of safety by sacrificing the important things in life: knowing God, serving others, doing good, making peace, and making disciples. We only have one life, and there’s no telling when this life will be over. So let’s spend this temporary life to love God and love people.
Recently, a dear brother of Christ whom I consider as my own brother passed away due to an accident. He was a smart, nice, godly, talented young man with a promising career ahead. His death came as a shock to all of us.
In the days following his death, we shared about our last moments with him. I was immensely encouraged to learn that he had spent the last days of his life reminding his closest friends and family about God and missions. Although his life on earth was cut short by this accident, this friend of mine had finished his race well.
Having been reminded of the fragility of life, I cannot help but wonder if I’m living my life the way God intends.
Before our perceived safety is threatened by the next suicide bomber or some other incident, let us ask ourselves: are we doing our very best to obey Jesus’ commandments? Do we love God and love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-38)?