And so it came to pass that, in one of those recent Christmas parties the hosts decided to have fun and wear costumes with a “Heroes and Villains” theme. One particular partygoer came in a traditional Arabic garb complete with self destruct terror gear strapped on his chest. They laughed, and the host captured on camera the merriment and posted it in his social media account.
The photo, and act, did not come unnoticed. In many instances it drew flak, much like the time when Prince Harry, the younger of two sons of the late Princess Diana and Prince Charles, went to a costume party in a Nazi uniform, swastika and all.
What makes this particular act of insensitivity – and even brazen stupidity, as many have called it – a major internet target is it was perpetrated by Ricky Sarthou, an executive pastor of the Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) and the party was of its pastors and their families.
I do not know Sarthou personally, and I have probably exchanged one or two inconsequential words with this pastor since I started going to CCF more than a decade ago. But in the many times I had attended service where he spoke I have seen him as a serious and dedicated worker of God. Once a successful business executive, he had refused the many compromises of the real world to be a loyal follower of Christ. He has lived through many struggles, including having to do away with the perks of his old life and literally make ends meet and the survival of his wife from a debilitating disease as part of his full acceptance of Christ as his Lord and Savior.
If there is one thing we who have been in his audience over the years remember are principles in guarding one’s Christian commitment in the real world, one of which is that when a Christian man is alone, driving his car, and gives a ride to a lady (an office associate, classmate or whatever) it is best to have her take the back seat. Weird and impractical, you might think. But it takes care of all possible compromises, including temptation and the misperception of the public’s prying and judgmental eyes.
So what possessed such a man as Sarthou to even consider publicly displaying himself as one considered as the vilest creatures on earth and even – at that point in time – find humor in it?
My take is, by being who he is, Sarthou has made himself a target, and a big one at that.
In the Bible, the apostle Peter writes: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)
In fact, the Bible is full of instances where men of God have fallen by the wayside in times of weakness. King David, the man dubbed as “a man after God’s own heart” had thrown all his God given successes to carnal desires when he eyed Bathsheba bathing.
There too is Job, who had lost everything – family, wealth, hope – and inflicted with unthinkable physical discomfort as the devil’s test of his faithfulness to the Lord. He overcame all these and was ultimately rewarded with many times more than the riches he originally had.
Even Christ was not spared the temptation for worldly desires, prosperity and dominance.
The point is the Bible has all these stories recurring along the same theme, where the faithful are subjected to all these what-were-you-thinking-? moments, and we, of this modern day will continue to do so because the adversary is actively seeking opportunities to put you, and your message of hope and love, down. We will be targeted, from the newbie who just started finding the faith he has been searching for, to the most mature Christian whose whole being has been committed to serving the Lord.
The most practical takeaway to this experience is that, in this day and age of the internet and social media, be wary of what you post or share. There are no private moments when you post anything online, even when all your settings tell you otherwise.