Wednesday, December 8

Is Jesus A Luxury For You?

Is Jesus a luxury for you?

This question was posed recently by Tamrat Layne to students at Cornerstone University. For those of you who don’t know, Tamrat is a former Ethiopian Prime Minister. He was a communist, an atheist, and guerrilla fighter.

The idols of Tamrat were Marx and Lenin. He read 48 volumes by Marx and 52 by Lenin, and dozens more by others promoting the communist cause.

In 1977, around the age of 21, he went to the mountains of Ethiopia to join a group calling for freedom from the reigning communist regime. As Tamrat describes it, the communist regime in power could be considered a different ‘denomination’ of communism and the ‘demonination’ the rebel group belonged to held antagonistic views toward their government.

“Freedom comes out the barrel of a gun.”

Working with many others he helped build a guerilla army of tens of thousands of soldiers, where he ended up serving as a chairman on the military committee. They spent fifteen years fighting, communist versus communist.

So, through guerrilla warfare they fought and eventually overthrew their government. Tamrat was elected as Prime Minister. After four years he shifted positions and was the defense minister for one year. After that one of the former friend’s rose to power and order Tamrat to be arrested for misuse of power. He was given an 18 year sentence. During those early months Tamrat tried killing himself.

When he could not succeed he started searching for a new life. He read book after book, philosophy, history, and religion. He read Buddhist, Hindu, and Confucian texts. For a while he studied the Koran diligently until one day a nurse brought him a Christian flier. After reading it and accepting it he prayed and Tamrat said that Jesus appeared to him in a vision.

“I am Jesus. Believe in and follow me…If you follow me I will give you the life you are searching for.”

Tamrat answered, “I surrender.”

And for the first time in his life Tamrat said he felt peace, joy and hope, though for a while he still carried thoughts of vengeance toward his former friend. Tamrat was later released for good behavior, serving 12 out of the 18 years. When he reconnected with his wife, she told him that Christ came to her around the same time as Tamrat. And after being released, Tamrat was finally able to forgive his friend.

“My heart was so strong and calloused he had to come himself and hammer it.”

Tamrat came to Cornerstone to bring a message. The message was not only of the importance of Christ but of the necessity of Christ. He asked the students, “Is Jesus a luxury for you? ... It is not a luxury. It is not a part time thing. It is a necessity. It is a breath. It is not business as usual.”

Having grown up on the completely other end of the spectrum, Tamrat realizes this importance. However, he realizes that to American Christians who are used to it, it is easy to get used to. Jesus should not be a fad or something to just show off. Being a Christian requires more than a smile and fish bumper sticker. It requires devotion. It calls for you to carry your cross. It calls for you to forgive your neighbor, even if he had you arrested.

Tamrat said he has given up politics. His only desire is to spread the gospel of Jesus. He hopes that someday he will be able to return and minister to his own people. Recently Christianity has been growing in Ethiopia, a report that gladdens Tamrat, though he still knows the journey will not be easy even as he seeks to grow in faith.

“I have faith, complete faith. I am still being transformed.”

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light,that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world." John 1:4-9, Tamrat’s favorite Bible passage.

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