In The Midst

Carly Absher, Asha Bhaga, Darlene Esqueda | May 18, 2021

We are three women from extremely different worlds, but God brought us together and sealed us as Sisters in Jesus through the Justice and Reconciliation ministry at Discovery. The only thing we truly have in common among us is our faith and our commitment to love ALL God’s people. So when one of us was asked to write for the Disco blog, the three of us prayed, talked it out, and wrote different aspects of our responses. Darlene starts us off by telling us about Daniel…

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the story of Daniel. Immediately, the picture of a man in a lion’s den is sure to come to mind. For those who may not know the story, let’s take a short journey of defining who Daniel was, and how this relates to authentic authority.

Daniel had been taken away from his royal family. He was brought to the king’s home to be of service. It was what many of us called “involuntary slavery.” However, he was selected by man, but elected by God. God had a plan! Daniel was what we define as the full package: He was handsome, fearless, righteous, wise, intelligent, and he was even gifted in interpreting dreams and visions. Out of all these amazing qualities he possessed, his devotion and commitment to God made him unique from the others.

This devotion and commitment allowed him to walk in the authority of God. With every opposition he was met with, God gave him favor. Notice, Daniel respected the king and the culture without compromising his faith and beliefs. God blessed him with the wisdom to interact with those who served the created, and not the Creator.

Here is the blockbuster moment! The pagan worshipers declare the goodness of God. Only with God, would you ever see this! Only God can make your enemies your footstool.

Authentic authority comes through a personal relationship with God. It is a dedication to prayer, and an unflinching declaration to not forsake God’s word. We see Daniels’s commitment displayed in his devotional prayer, in his determination to value his time with God, and in his commitment to not surrender when his life was on the line. Although it was not stated in the scriptures, Daniel’s actions manifested through his obedience. He had a heart after God.

I imagine that my Jesus story looks different than many at Discovery. My name is Asha and my ethnic ancestry is Indian, yet I have no family in that land. The surprise to many is that my parents and grandparents were born and raised in South Africa, with much of their lives living under apartheid. My brother and I are first-generation-born Americans. Living in a South African-Indian household had a unique cultural flare – a mix of Afrikaans, Gujarati, were spoken and English was included for the sake of us kids. I was raised Hindu with weekly worship gatherings at different homes, primarily led by my grandfather. I sang the Hindu worship songs alongside my grandmother and grandfather’s beautiful voices.

Fast-forwarding to my elementary and middle school years, I had no understanding of the Christian faith. The United States was a new world to my family and we were figuring it out together. One awakening early in life was brought to my attention by Christians, and it wasn't pleasant. I imagine I must have mentioned that I was Hindu and unbeknownst to me, word got around. Some of my “Christian” peers informed me that I was going to “burn in hell.” Up to then, I thought it was safe to reveal my beliefs. I was wrong. I doubt I made that mistake again. Everything about my faith and my culture had to be kept undercover.

Now, fast forward to High School. I was a fairly nice and quiet kid and what I knew from my experiences was that I disliked whatever this Christian "You're going to burn in Hell" message was, and I did not want to hear about it. It was not nice and it was not filled with love. I quickly learned that my culture and faith and so much about myself and my family were not accepted here. Maybe this is why I was quiet and amicable: to survive required assimilation to White culture.

There was a point when I began questioning my faith and exploring world religions…minus Christianity. From what I knew of Christianity, it provided no appealing benefits. But I asked God to show me who He really is. While I am not going to share my full salvation story, I hope you can get a sense that Christians did not do me any favors. My salvation is credited to Jesus revealing Himself in all His love, kindness, and authority as God almighty.

Asha’s story reminds the three of us of how God, in all his power and authority still revealed himself to the slaves in the United States even though slave-owners only allowed them to read the Slave Bible. This was a version of the Bible with much of scripture removed to prevent slaves from fully knowing God and validating their desire to be free men and women. And yet, God still reached into their hearts, saving untold numbers of slaves who relied on Him for everything while even their bodies were not their own. God did this very thing in the face of Christian slaveowners’ best efforts to prevent their “property” from experiencing the freedom that comes in knowing Jesus; the stories of freedom of the Old Testament. Even the worst in humankind cannot thwart the authority and purposes of God!

What I love about Asha’s story is that like Daniel, Asha was authentically committed to knowing God, and both were transplanted into cultures from other lands. Through her desire to truly know Him, He began calling to her in the midst of Hinduism. God’s ultimate authority even covers the world religions, reaching into the hearts that seek Him. What is even more amazing about God is that He calls people out of their worlds into His Kingdom despite what Christians do or don’t do. He doesn’t even really NEED us to share the Gospel, scripture says that even the stones will cry out in praise to the Lord. His Word will stand long after the Earth has passed away. But He desires the intimacy required of us to partake in the Good News of Jesus.

When Christians fail to love the world as Jesus does, as many Christians did in Asha’s case, they miss the opportunity at a front-row seat - watching the God of the Universe redeem the souls who earnestly search for Him. How many Ashas have I failed to see and love like Jesus calls, me…Carly, to do? I can’t say that as a child growing up in the church, I would not have acted similarly or that I am not capable of overlooking people even now.

But Jesus’ disciples will take Him at His word when He says in Matthew 28:18-19, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit…” Loving God and Loving People is how we GO and it changes everything, especially our posture toward those who are not yet disciples of Jesus – with arms wide open. So commit yourself to really knowing God just like the beautiful examples we have in Daniel and Asha. GO and love because the Authority that is in Jesus Christ is also in our hearts and minds the more intimately we know Him by grounding ourselves in His Word, just like Daniel did.