Imagine this. You’re beautiful, young, smart and capable. You’ve earned a medical degree from a prestigious university, own your own land and a few businesses. You are introduced to a nice, eligible man who is a biochemical engineer. The match seems perfect; you fall in love and later marry. A short while later, you learn you are pregnant. Nine months later, you welcome your first child, a precious boy. About a year and a half later, you are again happily pregnant with your second child. You have much to rejoice about. You thank God for all the good things happening in your life.
Then, one day, a man claiming to be your half brother conspires against you, claiming you converted to Christianity and ran off to marry a Christian, which under Sudanese law is apostasy and adultery. You and your twenty-month-old son are arrested and brought before a judge.
The judge demands that you abandon your Christian faith, the only faith you’ve ever known and accept the religion of your biological father, a Muslim, who left you and your mother at an early age.
The judge gives you three days to renounce or face 100 lashes and death by hanging. Until that time, you must remain in prison. Nearly eight months pregnant you stand before the judge alone with your toddler, scared and clinging on your hip. Your husband has already moved to the United States and you still live in Sudan, so he is not here to help you fight the charges.
What would you do?
“I’ve always been a Christian and I will remain a Christian,” Meriam Yehya Ibrahim resolutely declared before the court, knowing death would be her fate.
Would that have been your response, if you were a Christian?
As she lay pregnant, shackled on the filthy floor in one of Sudan’s worst prisons with her little son by her side, she said she never believed God would forsake her. Meriam later told reporters, “I trusted God from the first instant. I knew that He would not abandon me.”
Her daughter, Maya was born in prison while she was still shackled. She described to CNN during a telephone call that, “I gave birth chained. Not cuffed, but chains on my legs. I couldn’t open my legs so the women had to lift me off the table.”
Despite going through such an unimaginable ordeal in jail: being harassed by inmates, facing daily pressure from Muslim clerics to renounce Christianity and most importantly, a lack of medical care and dealing with a frightened and hungry toddler whom she could not properly care for–she remained steadfast. During a conversation with her husband, she told him, “if they are going to kill me, they should do so because I am not renouncing my faith.”
Could you have said this?
Even her husband confessed he was not certain if he could have been as strong as she had been.
But God did not fail her.
On June 23rd, the Supreme Court over turned her death sentence and Meriam was freed from prison.
Despite attempts to detain her at the airport and her “family’s” attempt to bring other charges against her, she finally left Sudan and headed to Italy where she met the Pope Francis who thanked her for her, “courageous witness and constancy of faith.”
From Italy, she and her family traveled to their new home in the United States, a quiet town in New Hampshire, where she received a warm welcome from family and friends.
Challenged by her unequivocal faith in Christ, I am drawn into deeper contemplation about my own Christian life. She has become a current example of what faith in action looks like. I am comparing her to David, as he faced the giant, Goliath and knew his God would deliver him, to Job’s steadfastness as everything he owned and had accomplished was taken from him, yet he refused to curse God and die, to Paul, who, when jailed for preaching the Gospel, considered it a joy to suffer for Christ’s sake. I am comparing her to some of the greats in the bible because of the stance she took in the face of certain death.
In this day in age, Christianity has become something of a label. Something we get to say we are because we acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord; we go to church, fellowship with other Christians on Sunday, say grace and pray for people needing prayer and do other “Christian things.”
But…if we were forced to renounce our faith or face certain death, would we accept or abandon that “label?”
My response is this: we’d accept the label, but only by the grace of God, for, “apart from Christ, we can do nothing,” John 15:5.
God’s grace is something that is never earned but apportioned and gifted through an abiding relationship with Him (Ephesians 4:7, KJV).
To the world and sometimes to us, our faith is more often viewed as a religion.
Religion is defined as, “a set of beliefs concerning the case, nature and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”
Relationship is defined as, “a connection, association, or involvement; a connection between persons by blood or marriage or an emotional or other connection between people.”
Christians know Christ’s shed blood lead to God’s forgiveness of our sins and by His design and grace, we are able to enter into a relationship where we are called sons and daughters and He is our Father.
Grace is not only the gift we receive from the God of our salvation, however, it is His grace that sustains us and enables us to be and do all God called us to do.
Nevertheless, I’ll be the first to admit that certain parts of Christianity feels like religion, in that it meets many of the criteria that defines what a religion is. However, the ability to truly practice it, faithfully, emerges out of a grace bestowed upon followers of Christ, drawing us to desire to be with Him.
I believe what makes Meriam Ibrahim such as example, is that she demonstrated what the end result of a strong, abiding relationship with Christ looks like. The end result being that she has become, like David, Job and Paul before her, a potent and powerful witness, a small stone cast in the still waters of conformity causing many disruptive ripples that I and many others around the world, will not likely forget—that God is our abundant source of grace and will never abandon those who put their complete trust in Him!
You can read more about Meriam’s incredible story at:
Mail Online, Sudanese Meriam Ibrahim, facing execution for marrying Christian, gives birth in jail
CNN, No eminent execution for Christian in Sudan, despite death sentence
The Christian Post, Meriam Ibrahim’s Islamic Relatives Trying to Prove She is Muslim; Lawsuit Could Further Delay Departure to US
Al Arabiya News, After Release, Sudan’s Meriam Ibrahim speaks out