News you can use

Out Our Way: If it's wearing the brand ...

"See, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" - Acts 8:36

Out our way various ranchers raise different breeds of cattle. You'll see black Angus, red Angus, white Charolais, an occasional Hereford and some that are mix of several breeds.   The type of cow doesn't really matter, but rather whom it belongs to.  

Now, Charlie and I were out riding fence for a local rancher who ran mostly red Angus.  When we spotted a black cow in the midst we went to investigate.  Sure enough it was someone else's cow that had somehow managed to get in the wrong pasture. But it wasn't the Angus' color that made it clear it didn't belong - it was its ear tags and brand. In that same pasture were a number of Charolais pairs. They were no red Angus either - but they wore the same tags and bore the same brand as the rest of the herd, so we knew they did belong.

In the Book of Acts is the story of an Ethiopian eunuch who had been in Jerusalem to pray. Obviously, he was not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was a foreigner, an Ethiopian. He was also a Negro, a black man and of a different race than the Jews.  More than that, as a eunuch Jewish law forbade him to enter into the Assembly (Deuteronomy 23:1) of God's people.   

Now, the Jews recognized not all gentiles were the same and honored foreigners and outsiders who honored God as "God-fearers," but they were still forbidden entry into the temple or the synagogue. Yet the church, although still Jewish, was different. The eunuch could not be a part of the Jewish assembly, but he was welcome to be part Christ's people.

Philip baptized him at once and the Ethiopian continued on his way, rejoicing.

Ethiopian tradition tells us he became an evangelist in his own country and founded the first church in Africa.   Branches of that church spread out across North Africa in Egypt and the Sudan so that by the second century, Alexandria, Egypt, was considered a second Jerusalem. It was from the church in Africa that the Desert Fathers and Mothers - the for runners of the monastic movement that eventually spread across the Middle East and into Europe - found its beginning.  

As we have been reminded by the brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa, the church that began with the apostles and spread across Judea Samaria and into the whole world is still there. A new holocaust has begun against the Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Syria as well as in the Sudan and other African states. The church in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the governments of Egypt, Jordon and Israel, wonder at the spreading terror of Islamic extremists - and at America's silence.

We've been here before as the Nazi juggernaut began rounding up Jews and sending them to Auschwitz and other concentration camps.  Our government and the governments of most other nations chose to ignore it. 

But at least the Nazis didn't publicize the murder of the Jews and dare the rest of the world to do something. At least we could pretend we didn't know.

But what is our excuse now?  Twenties Christians were publically beheaded because they were Christians - and their murderers sent video of the   execution around the world gleefully daring Christians or anybody else to challenge them.   Our response? We will hold some meetings and conferences to talk about these things.   Many others are being openly beheaded, sold into slavery, imprisoned, kidnapped, raped and tortured, and it is boldly proclaimed and even bragged about by the perpetrators.  And Congress, the president, and the U.N. talk, but do not act decisively.

Of course, these are black people - foreigners - people of different nationalities, races and cultures. What have they to do with us? That may be a valid argument for the agnostics, atheists and other secularists ... but if you are a Christian ... check the brand. Brown, black, red, white ... those who belong to Christ all wear the same brand and are part of the same herd.

Philip the Jew went down to the water with the Ethiopian Eunuch, and they came up together as brothers. Who will go down to the water with the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Palestinians, Syrians and Iraqis who also call Christ Lord? 

  (John Bruington is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He can be reached at [email protected]. The book "Out Our Way: Theology Under Saddle" is available at


Reader Comments(0)