Traffic, food expiration dates, and obeying Christ
Until the rulers change, and the corrupt system of lax laws lets up on its suffering of people, what are some things the Church in Lebanon and elsewhere can do?
01 MARCH 2021 · 09:58 CET
Have you ever driven in a chaotic country with poor traffic management? Driving in Lebanon requires a new level of focus and spatial awareness. When you sit in the driver’s seat in Lebanon, you must become like a superhero, like Daredevil or Spiderman.
Your senses are heightened and working together. You have to quickly predict the moves of those driving around you. For example, when a traffic light is green, you need to check if someone on the right lane next to you will speed ahead of you to make a left turn or if someone on the left lane next to you will pull a right turn. At an intersection, you will also need to check if the cars opposite you acknowledge their red light or if cars from the crossing street ignore traffic lights and decide it is their turn to turn. You also need to check if there is a traffic patrolman standing somewhere on the side giving directions to cars that are not in line with the traffic lights. To sum it up, in Lebanon, driving laws are treated as merely a suggestion.
Not only are driving laws in Lebanon a suggestion. Due to current realities, expiration dates of medicine and food items have become mere suggestions as well.
With inflation causing absurd prices- add to this frequent severe lockdowns- Lebanese families don’t think about throwing away a box of expired Aspirin. After all, who knows when Aspirin in Lebanon will become extinct? And what about food items? Well, the rule now is that if something looks good and smells good, you can ignore its expiry date. Simply stay away from food that smells bad or has insects coming out of it!
The terrible living conditions throughout Lebanon are felt enormously in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli where protestors have recently been back on the streets. Some Lebanese people, like many living in Tripoli, do not even have the “privilege” of eating expired food. They rely on day-to-day work to provide bread and food for their families. The recent string of lockdowns has not helped their conditions.
Back in October 2019, protests were dance parties; today, they are riots. But apparently the Lebanese corrupt elite are neither moved by dance parties nor by riots and martyrs. Whether these rulers are backed by their ideologies, bank accounts, or followers who would blindly fight for them, they seem bent on staying in their positions forever.
But will they stay forever? History teaches us that the greatest of rulers eventually fall. So, what now? Until the rulers change, and the corrupt system of lax laws lets up on its suffering of people, what are some things the Church in Lebanon and elsewhere can do?
- I am always encouraged by praying churches who do not give up! They know where their faith lies, and they know whom to seek. The high walls of Jericho fell by praise. Some believe that the Berlin wall fell by prayer. Yes, we must pray for current leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), but we also need to pray for new godly leaders, godly laws, and godly transitions. We can learn from the recent history of our neighboring countries and less recent history from others so as not to fall into the same trap where the end of corrupt regimes is followed by years of downfall for the country and its people. It is not a good thing for an Athaliah to replace an Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22). Let us pray for a Hezekiah after an Ahaz (2 Kings 16, 18), a Josiah after an Amon (2 kings 21, 22). But let us also remember that whether it is Athaliah, Ahaz, Hezekiah or Josiah, our loyalty and obedience is for Christ. He alone perfectly fulfilled the will of the Father.
- For those Christians who are themselves struggling during these times and on the verge of giving up, we can learn what Paul experienced and wrote about in Philippians 4. “Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We can live in a country with a crumbling economy, or in a country booming and prospering. In both cases, we can enjoy God’s gifts and serve Him with whatever we have. So, let us celebrate His blessings and share about the hope we have.
- Are we putting our faith in government and expecting it to be the Church to the marginalized? Of course we need to hold the government accountable, but nothing can replace the Church in loving people while serving them and tending to their spiritual and physical needs. We are witnessing many stories such as this. In Acts chapter 10 Peter reminds us that God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power, and Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil. Today, as the body of Christ, we have to go around doing good and healing all who are under the power of the devil. The same Holy Spirit works through us today.
- Pray for job opportunities that are desperately needed. The need is overwhelming. The pandemic and economic issues are intertwined, and they complicate solutions. Pray for wisdom for those who are working to provide solutions.
Until Christ comes again, blessed are the churches who are stepping out of their comfort zone and serving their community expecting nothing in return. Blessed are those who are Christlike in their giving and sacrifices, and who are not hindered by those exploiting their kindness. Blessed are the two coins of the widow.
Loulwa El Maalouf, Director of Partnerships at ABTS; she lives in Lebanon and obeys traffic laws.
This article was first published on the Institute of Midddle East Studies blog of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, and was re-published with permission.