“I am going to build a big cross, higher than any in the world, in a Muslim country. It will be a symbol of God, and everybody who sees this will be worry-free.” That is the dream, now coming to pass, of Pakistani businessman Parvez Henry Gill. Four years ago, the lifelong Christian believes God spoke to him saying, “I want you to do something different.”
That “something different” has resulted in the nearly-completed 140-foot-tall cross at the entrance to Karachi’s largest Christian cemetery where tombstones are routinely vandalized, it is believed, by militant Muslims. Gill believes it will convince persecuted Christians that “some day their lives will get better.”
However, some Karachi Christians fear the massive Christian symbol will make their community even more vulnerable to radical Muslims. But Gill is convinced his cross, built on a 20-foot underground foundation is “bulletproof.” “If anyone tries to hit this cross, they will not succeed.”
That sounds like a triple-dog dare for militants to try to blow it up. Believe me, they already have the cross bar in their cross hairs!
I certainly don’t doubt my brother’s sincerity, but there seems to be a few flaws in his thinking.
First, it’s not the “world’s tallest cross.”
The Millennium Cross is actually 77 feet taller at 217 feet, and is built atop the Vodno Mountain in the Republic of Macedonia city of Skopje.
But that doesn’t stop the people of Effington, Illinois, claiming theirs is “The World’s Tallest Cross.” Towering over Interstates 57 and 70, the “Cross at the Crossroads” is only 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide. It can’t even claim to be the tallest cross in the United States!
“The Great Cross,” in St. Augustine, Florida, actually soars ten feet higher at 208 feet—9 feet taller.
Not to be outdone, Missouri developers are planning the “Branson Cross: World’s Largest Cross.” It will be “nearly 200 feet” once completed. While it won’t be the tallest, it will be large enough to include two elevators. Developers promise free admission and—I quote—“An encounter with Jesus.” Somehow the phrases “elevators” and “encounter with Jesus” seem to be less than comforting! Which brings me to the second issue:
Second, it’s not going to bring peace and end worry
Perhaps the world’s giant cross builders are missing the point when Christ promises, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).
When Jesus—not tons of steel and concrete—is lifted up from the earth, he—not P. T. Barnham-like promotion—will draw all people to himself.
I think the Gill family had it right in the beginning. They have a long history of Christian charity including helping thousands of poor Pakistani children pay for education and covering the cost of over 100 eye surgeries for the blind. That is the way, according to Matthew 25, that Jesus is lifted up when his followers satisfy the hungry and thirsty, provide hospitality to strangers and care for the poor and the prisoners. But not a single command to compete in building the world’s largest crosses.
In Pakistan, in the United States, and throughout the world, manmade things will not make us “worry-free.” But Jesus promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Concrete and steel will not convince persecuted Christians that “some days their lives will get better.” On the contrary, Jesus teaches, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).
And as 9/11 taught America, no human-built structure is “bulletproof.” Jesus warns, “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
So, may I suggest . . .
• Pray people will put their hope in Christ and not in human-made structures.
• Pray that Christians will invest their efforts and money into things that will last for eternity and not just for tourist season. (Feeding the hungry would be a great start.)
• And pray for Christ to be lifted up around the world.
Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins (This post first appeared in ViewPoint from the Presidential Prayer Team.)
Controversy de jour: confederate flag
Displaying the confederate flag is the controversy de jour with the predictable near-jerk reactions pro and con. Here’s my take. If southerners are denied displaying the flag, will the LGBT rainbow flag be next? How ’bout the Christian flag? The first amendment seems to protect them all in displaying a flag representing their cause or beliefs. However, I think I have a responsibility to not intentionally offend or provoke people with my words or actions, so I think the right thing to do is voluntarily take down any flag or sign that a group may find offensive or troubling. It’s the law of love rather than the law of personal freedom. That does not mean, however, that I am going to stop “speaking the truth in love.” It’s complicated, but the bottom line is to do all things in love.
Directing the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference
I am so looking forward to being with “my people” Tuesday through Sunday at the conference on the campus of Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania.
Thanks for your prayers for safe travels for everyone attending and for God to work in the hearts of those entrusted with sharing his Word with their words!
I’ll also be speaking at these conferences this summer
July 19-24, 2015
Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference
July 29 – August 1, 2015
Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference
Cairn University, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
But wait, there’s more: I have a whole ream of writing resources for writers if you can’t join us.