“What Is That Around Your Neck?” (Isaiah 58:7-8)

Several years ago, one of my dermatology residents returned from a short term medical missionary trip, joining a medical and dental team that served in a communist country. After two weeks, she returned and was eager to share her experiences with my office staff.


For half an hour, she projected images of the patients she and her team treated. One tragic case, for which she brought back microscope slides and I reviewed the pathology for their local pathologist, was a malignant tumor that had consumed the patient’s right eye and had now spread to his left eye. The closest medical center that could give him a chance to preserve the sight in his left eye was four hours away by car traveling on an unpaved road. It was a sobering illustration of how thinly stretched medical resources were for that country and its citizens.


After her presentation, I attempted to lighten the mood and remarked, “Well, I am glad you and the team were there. They were getting great medical and dental care with fresh supplies.” She nodded and pursed her lips. “Yes, we were happy to be there but for the first three days, the only patients we were allowed to see were government officials and their families. Some of the police also posed as patients and they would ask us questions like, ‘Tell us about the religion your organization believes in?’ or they would point at the Cross I was wearing and ask, ‘What is that around your neck?’ Our group was strictly warned to not engage in any talk about Christianity, which is a crime in that country. If we did, we would immediately be asked to leave.”


It was a two-fisted pummeling to our senses-scarcity of medical resources and suppression of religious freedom. My dermatology resident and her co-workers, all Christian believers, obeyed their organization’s directive. In the United States, we enjoy the right to openly worship the religion of our choosing. But what if we lived in a society where even the mention of religion or God was a crime, punishable by imprisonment or even death? Would we be willing to comply with the government or would we even dare to openly declare our faith?


Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.

Isaiah 58:7-8 (NLT)


It is a delicate balance to serve God in an environment that is hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and other religions. While we are respectful of the laws of the land, we can still preach God through our actions. Even if the world imposes its own restrictions upon who is preferentially served, we are all sinners, living in a fallen world. Everyone, including government workers and the sick, need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. God’s Word and love is never bound by human restrictions and bureaucracy. Salvation through faith and belief in Jesus Christ is available to all who call upon His Name.


Praise God!


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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