‘We must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29). This short but powerful quote kept coming to mind during a recent trip to Jordan. Much of our journey was spent visiting sites rich in biblical significance.
Jordan’s legal system is founded upon Islamic principles. Muslims are forbidden to convert to Christianity on pain of death. When I first arrived I wondered whether such a law was just languishing on the books without real enforcement.
By the end of our trip, I received my answer.
While there, we met quietly with some evangelical Christian leaders. On our last night we met a high-ranking governmental official. That was when our real education began.
It was at a lavishly prepared banquet at one of the more elegant restaurants in Amman.
After dining and making small talk around the U-shaped table, a journalist with us asked the official whether he would take questions. He nodded politely.
The journalist asked if it was true that the death penalty could be administered in Jordan to persons who convert from Islam to the Christian faith. ‘Yes’, he replied.
‘Was that fair, was that right?’ The official made no apologies or concessions. If we believed Jesus died for us, he said, why shouldn’t Christians be forced to die for Jesus?
Way of life
I didn’t think the matter should end there. So I asked him to pretend, for a moment, that he was a Christian in Jordan. It would be his duty and privilege to obey Christ’s great commission to take the gospel into all the world — including Islamic Jordan.
After a pause, he replied that American Christians should worry about problems in America before trying to correct things in his country.
‘Then what future is there for evangelical Christians in Jordan?’ I asked.
His response was interesting. He said he had read much about Christianity and, in his opinion, it was not just a religion but a way of life.
‘Why don’t you Christians’, he suggested, ‘simply be a silent example of Jesus in the way you live your lives?’
This showed perception, and I said so.
But I also said: ‘We do not consider Christianity merely a form of religion. Rather, it is a matter of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as a living Lord and Saviour’.
I later realised that by these words I had violated Jordan’s prohibition on evangelising.
How do Bible-believing Christians function in Jordan under such legal restrictions?
We met with one Christian worker in his place of ministry overlooking the valleys of Jordan. We asked him what he did if Muslims came to his meetings. He smiled as he told us that he hoped they would turn to Christ as Saviour.
This servant of Jesus knew the stakes. He explained how one of his buildings was set on fire by angry Muslims, and how he regularly receives death threats.
Yet the situation for Christians in Jordan is certainly not the worst within the Arab world.
However, trying to quantify oppression in these nations is difficult. Better to pray for the approximately 3,000 Bible-believing Christians in Jordan, and ask God what we can do for them as they labour in the gospel.