I have so many pictures from our time together. I have pictures from every place I went to in Mexico but one. It was a place that by taking just one picture it would mean confiscation of your camera.
It was a place that from the outside, you wouldn’t understand why taking photos was not allowed. It was simply a cement church. But once inside it the reason was evident. Let me tell you of the day I visited the church in San Juan Chimula.
Stepping through the gates of the courtyard I smelled smoke. Peering into the massive doors of the church, I couldn’t see much. It was dark, really dark. As I stepped in my eyes adjusted. What I saw I will never forget. It is ingrained in my mind forever. Not because there were magnificent arches or massive chandeliers. In fact, it was just the opposite. There weren’t any arches or any lights, except the flames of candles – thousands of candles on the floor burning with their wicks untrimmed. These candles weren’t large, in fact, they were quite small, but the vast number of them lit the church and produced so much smoke it stung my throat. Walking further into the church I could feel the oppression of the enemy.
Kneeling in front of the arranged candles on the floor were families. Grandparents all the way down to little children; all chanting, praying to statues of the saints encased around the walls. Each family had three things with them: Coke, a box tied with a string, and corn moonshine. Chimulans believe that when they belch (burp) it releases the evil spirits from their body so all the family members have to drink the Coke and belch. The box contains a chicken – a live chicken used as a sacrifice to appease the evil spirits along with the latter of the three. I’ve never seen such emptiness. Their eyes were like looking into black holes, taking in everything around them, but never satisfied. Their lives are marked by fear.
Fifteen years ago 1500 Christians were killed in San Juan Chimula. Today Chimulan Christians are still being persecuted and killed. If you are a Christian living there you know you will face much persecution and possibly death. The Christian Chimulans know what they face but aren’t afraid – they have freedom, just as we do!
We have freedom in Christ. We are not in bondage every day, performing rituals that we believe will appease the evil spirits. The Christian life is marked by a relationship with Christ. In Christ we are complete – made whole by the blood of Christ. In Christ is no bondage – Christ blood brings redemption. We are free to enjoy fellowship with our Savior. No religion in the world can claim a relationship that their god wants to have with them that our Savior desires with us. Jesus Christ takes delight in our relationship with Him. In fact, we are told in Zephaniah 3:17 that the Lord will, “rest in His love and will joy over you with singing”. How great is our God!?! The Maker of the universe desires a growing relationship with us and sings over us. That is just incredible! In Christ is love, not fear. Perfect love casts out fear… all we need to do is rest in Christ!
May the God of peace renew a steadfast spirit within you to rest in Him alone!