Something worth dying for

I was born in Jerusalem and grew up in the city of Bethlehem. My family and I would not have known salvation if it weren’t for passionate evangelists from the United States who taught us about Jesus Christ.

Even though I grew up within a 15-minute walk from where the Prince of Peace was born, spiritual and political turmoil is imprinted in my memories. As far back as I remember, there hasn’t been a day free of violence, riots, gunshots, persecution, the effects of war, or death. My childhood had much turmoil, but thankfully I was anchored in the message of Jesus Christ.

I always tell people, “If you don’t find anything worth dying for then what’s worth the living?” I have times where I am scared of going into a certain neighborhood or a particular home for fear of what could happen to the lives and homes of those that I am ministering with.

There are many days when almost every entity around us—the Palestinian Authority, other churches, extremists, or fanatical groups—are all threatening either our security and stability or our family’s safety.

Those who visit us and see what we do ask, “Pastor, I don’t know how you do it. How do you and your leaders sleep peacefully with no worries? How can you not want to just pack up and flee?” They say, “We sure could not do it here. We respect you and support you that much more now that we see what you are doing.”

My answer to them is that the apostle Paul counseled, “being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). We believe the Lord has begun a good work through us, starting with my father over 36 years ago in the heart of Bethlehem, and we will be faithful until our Lord Jesus returns.

There is much antigovernment activism going on in the city of Jenin, especially in the refugee camp. The last several times we were there, there had been killings or bombings between Palestinian young men and Israeli soldiers within hours of our leaving. We do not get caught in politics; our “Air Force One” is the gospel, figuratively and spiritually speaking.

We go to homes of secret believers. They invite friends and family to hear the message of Jesus. We go in and open the Bible with families that could at any moment be drawn into the wrong kind of indoctrination and political hatred. The more people I meet there, the more I come to realize that they are hopeless because no secure true hope was offered to them.

We will push forward; we will continue sharing Jesus; we will put up more billboards; we will go into hostile territories and be a beacon of hope, a lighthouse where there is not light. We are confident that “Greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world.” My heart to yours, Shalom and Salam from the Holy Land.

By Steven Khoury

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #109 in 2014]

Steven Khoury lives in Bethlehem, directs Holy Land Missions, and pastors Calvary Baptist Church in Jerusalem. This testimony is excerpted from his newsletters.
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