By Stan Friedman
IRVINE, CA (June 23, 2012) – Labib Madanat, an Arab Christian who has spent his entire life living among various “enemies” in the Middle East, exhorted a worship gathering Friday night to abandon thoughts focused on self-survival and direct all of their energies to sharing the gracious love of God, even with those who hate them.
Madanat spoke to a ballroom packed with attendees to the 127th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church. He is the coordinator of both the Israeli and Palestinian Bible Societies.
He has a passion for getting the scriptures into the hands of all people, but also for helping create conditions in which people can hear what the word of God is saying. Lives of Christians demonstrate the gospel by pursuing development and engaging holistically in serving the needs of the local communities, whether they are inhabited by Christians, Jews, or Muslims.
Madanat has come from a background that has given him a unique platform from which to speak. He was born in Jerusalem to a Jordanian couple who were ministering there together with the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. The family moved back to Jordan in 1977. He also lived in Iraq for four years and now lives in Israel and has learned the Hebrew language to help further his relationship with Jews.
Madanat told the gathering that God’s grace does not confer privilege and should not lead to arrogance and self-focus. The Jewish Jesus goes to the Jewish people and tells them that God can raise up followers from stones, he reminded the gathering.
It is a terrible thing, he said, when people who have been dirty and washed clean then look down on those who are still dirty.
That self-focus leads to the false primary goal of self-preservation, which ultimately leads to fear and hatred. It is a situation that holds true in any culture, including churches that view “secular humanism” as the enemy. He spoke primarily of the Middle East, where the number of Christians has plummeted in the wake of violence.
“Hate for Islam and Muslims was not born after 9-11. It has been in us for centuries,” Madanat said.
The Church should not live with attitude of defeat, however, wondering how it can survive in a region where Muslims are the overwhelming majority, he said. He asked, however, “If the risen Christ defeated death, then tell me what else can be a threat to you,” Madanat said.
Madanat shared that people often ask the wrong question about Christians in the Middle East. “People ask how the church can survive in the Middle East,” Madanat said. The right question is, “How can the Middle East survive without the church.”
He reminded the gathering, “The church is called to be his agent of salvation, his agent of life to the people of the Middle East.” All of the people, all of the time.
Later in the service, the lives of pastors, missionaries and spouses who died during the past year were honored. Communion also was celebrated.