Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. – John 16:2
Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God…they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. – Revelation 20:4
“A message signed in blood to the people of the cross.” – ISIS, on the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians
LIGHTING A CANDLE
When the news first broke about the beheadings and crucifixions of Syrian and Iraqi Christians, I sank to my knees in the kitchen. This was before the Coptic 21, before the Assyrian 200. Christians and Yazidis were being driven to the mountains, and an Arabic letter N was being painted on doors.
N, for Nazarene, a mark for the followers of Christ.
A friend of a friend painted the following picture, and within a week it had become a viral profile image on Facebook. We do this. We change our profiles, put out tweets, write up posts.
In our house we light a candle.
We said a prayer around the candle for a week, watched news updates and held our breath. Then I tucked the candle back to its shelf because it feels as if I don’t know how to do this thing–I don’t know how to go on with my untroubled life and still show honor to those who suffer for our common faith. It feels not enough, somehow, to just bow my head in prayer.
This is a world of seven billion people, seven billion individual lives being lived out every day; seven billion sorrows, seven billion victories; seven billion griefs, joys, sufferings, triumphs, hatreds, loves, peace, pain. From genocides to silent personal sufferings, the globe is pulsing with Creation-Gone-Wrong. Sin throbs in the skeleton, and pushes its rash of consequences to the skin. We cannot hold all of this inside ourselves. We cannot carry the weight of the global population into our hearts and fully comprehend the experiences of the other 6,999,999,999.
We cannot hold all of the pain. We were never meant to.
JESUS ABSORBS THE SUFFERING
But Jesus can.
In a post about suffering and healing, Susanne Maines writes:
Jesus promises that those who follow him will suffer. He does not ask us to deny, minimize, or redefine personal pain. Rather, he asks us to face it, embrace it, and place it in his hands.
He alone can absorb suffering and send it out of the universe.
He alone can absorb.
absorb: |əbˈzôrb, -ˈsôrb|verb [ with obj. ]
• take in or soak up
• take in and assimilate (information, ideas, experiences)
• take control of
• use or take up
• take up and reduce the effect or intensity of
Picture Him, absorbing the shockwaves of the universe, absorbing the ramifications of sin. Picture Him, absorbing sin itself.
PEOPLE OF THE CROSS
We are the people of the cross. ISIS has no idea what it really means to curse us by this name. They do not comprehend that people of the cross are people of the Christ, and that Christ died to give them life. They are throwing stones at the very ones who for the sakes of the stone-throwers would lay down their lives, and they are cursing the One who already did. People of the Cross follow a Savior who set aside His own glory in order to seek, serve, and save the lost. ISIS can kill in the name of Allah, but in the name of Jesus, People of the Cross are commanded to love their enemies, and to pray for those who persecute them–and we do.
There is not a man among ISIS whom Jesus Christ did not die to save. We weep for the Christians, for the Yazidis, for the rest of those whom are slaughtered and slain, but we weep for ISIS as well. These are men and these are women deluded–possessed–by a lie.
When the black hoods stood behind the bowed heads of the Coptic 21–the Men of the Cross–a picture was taken by talented hand and skilled eye. Despite the intent of the image, it was a picture of good and evil, of darkness and light. At our extremes, this is what we become–People Of The Cross, and People Not Of The Cross; People Belonging To Jesus, and People Belonging To The Dark. We either crucify Christ, or we are crucified to Him. There is never a middle ground.
The LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
But woe to you, [Islamic Radicals], hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, [Islamic Radicals], hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
God sees. God hears. And we–the ones who were once rescued from the darkness and brought into the glorious light, who were once the men standing, but now (by his marvelous grace) are the ones on our knees–we pray for the persecuted, and we pray for the persecutors, alike.
Light your candle. Let your light shine.
ISIS, The 21, and Letting The Bible Speak For Itself by Josh Howerton
Lord, Have Mercy by Francis Ritchie
ONE WAY TO HELP:
Financially help Christians targeted by ISIS — Open Doors USA