Imagine, if you can, being surrounded by people who might want to kill you at any moment. With no way of knowing who your friends are and who might be hiding a secret desire to shoot you, how could you ever relax or let your guard down?
Then again, try to imagine being one of these people who travels around in the sight of everyone while hiding murderous urges. What must it be like to pretend to be someone’s friend even while you are preparing to kill them?
Today, the second most read story on the BBC news website is a report about yet another British soldier killed by an Afghan who was a member of the Afghan National Army. There is a huge amount of courage and cowardice on display here. The British army, as well as the Americans and other national forces, should be applauded and cheered for their courage. They have willingly trained these Afghan men. They have befriended these Afghan soldiers while offering them a chance to serve their own country in an honourable and hopeful way. They have supplied foreign troops with weapons which have been turned against them.
Their courage is found in their willingness to continue, to endure and to persevere. Every day is a chance for improvement in Afghanistan and also a chance for another soldier to lose their life.
Cowardice is also on display here in a striking way. There is armed resistance in Afghanistan. Some people would prefer for all foreign soldiers to leave. This may even be the very best thing. Yet to deceive someone, receive help from them and then murder them is sheer cowardice.
What do Christians make of these things? How can we respond in a way which honours God and dignifies people?
On one hand, we can grieve with those who grieve. Help should be offered to the family of the dead soldier in the UK. Christians should share in the outrage against such cowardice.
On the other hand, our care for the people of Afghanistan should prompt us to think seriously about the mission in that country. I do not mean that we should undermine the role of our government as it tries to find the best way forward. By all means, support the international community as they work in Afghanistan. Yet there must be a realisation among Christians that Afghanistan needs Jesus Christ and the Gospel far more than it needs its own army, a clearly defined border or the removal of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Real transformation in nations happens through the grace of God.
Christians should perhaps be challenged to be more courageous in our giving, our vocal support, our praying and in our going to places where the Gospel is so desperately needed.