By Michael E. Brooks
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:3-4).
Moni Maya is a Bhutanese citizen of Nepali ancestry who left Bhutan some years ago due to restrictions against ethnic Nepalis there. Nepali culture, dress, language, customs, etc. were forbidden by edict of the King. More than 200,000 ethnic Nepalis left Bhutan at that time, coming to Nepal and settling in refugee camps (other groups settled in neighboring countries).
Though they are Bhutanese citizens, ethnically and culturally they are Nepali. Neither country claims them nor takes full responsibility for them. Bhutan’s position is, “If they want our help, let them come back to our country.”
Nepal rightly states that they are not Nepali citizens and Nepal lacks the resources to provide for such a large number. Meanwhile they remain in large refugee camps living in small shacks and tents, in deep poverty.
A short time ago the U.S. government made an agreement to bring some of the Bhutanese refugees to America to provide some relief to the Nepali government and to the refugees themselves. Other nations have made similar agreements. The family of Moni Maya was among the number chosen to immigrate to the U.S.
I have visited some of the refugee camps in eastern Nepal and seen the harsh, impoverished conditions there. Tens of thousands of people live in tiny shacks and tents crowded together without shade and with few facilities for sanitation, water or other necessities. Relatively few refugees have jobs, and those who do, work for very poor wages. Most live in dependence upon the government’s irregular gifts and donations from charities and humanitarian organizations.
Imagine the contrast of such conditions with the comparative wealth and luxury of the United States. Imagine the feeling of Moni Maya and her family upon arrival and realization that hunger, exposure to harsh elements, persecution, and most of the physical suffering which they had constantly experienced are things of the past. Yes, even in America we might know suffering of various kinds, but rarely to the degree and of the nature of what these refugees have escaped.
Moni Maya and her family were arbitrarily chosen to be immigrants. There may have been a few conditions, but with such huge numbers who needed help and the comparative few selected, their election was to some degree a matter of chance. They were no more needful nor worthy than tens of thousands left in the camps. They owe their escape not to their own cleverness, skill or innate value, but to the mercy of others.
Human beings have been enslaved by sin. We are bound in camps, so to speak, where we suffer from spiritual starvation and poverty, with no hope of escape. Yet God loved us and looked down with compassion to save us. “He chose us in him (i.e., Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).
Just as there is no comparison between conditions in refugee camps in Nepal and those in liberty in America, so there is no possible comparison between our death in sin and our life in Christ. Just as the Bhutanese refugees cannot act to save themselves, so we sinners can do nothing to escape our guilt. But we do not have to save ourselves. God sent his son that we might have life. Those who obediently trust in Jesus have been chosen. They are free. They live. Sin has no more hold on them, nor can it any longer cause spiritual suffering or destruction. May God be praised and thanked.
By Michael E. Brooks