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Persecution, Martyrdom, the Love of Christ…. and a hard lesson in prayer

Crucifix

Crucifix (Photo credit: LeChinchi)

 11  They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:11 (NJB)

 43  ‘You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. 44  But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;  Matthew 5:43-44 (NJB)

 23  Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign LORD. “No, I would rather see them repent and live. Ezekiel 18:23 (TEV)

The news again has horrible stories of terrorism in the headlines.  The situation in the Kenyan mall, and the two churches in Pakistan that were hit by suicide bombers.

This time, the targets weren’t just political – but they were specifically religious. They were after my brothers and sisters in Christ.   And there are new entries to the list of martyrs that extends through the centuries, and is growing day by day.

I want to be mad, I want to think about how to get revenge, whether its the President or some other official pushing a button and the merciless terrorists being zapped like vermin.

Yet I hear the words of my sermon yesterday, the quote from St Paul to a young pastor echoing in my mind, “I urge you – pray for ALL men, ask God to help them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them….”

Uhm God, is there an exception clause for this?   Can we strike out terrorists of body, and those who terrorize the soul?

My mind cries out that I can’t love them, that it is illogical and stupid and asking for more pain to forgive them.

Gosh I dislike that passage in Matthew 5.

This week I preach on that passage from Revelation 12, and iti s in my mind as well – how much do we cling to life?  Why do we do anything and everything to avoid death?  We don’t like to talk about it, we spend billions on hiding it and our aging (growing toward it) in our culture… and we hate anyone or anything that threatens it.   The Blood of Christ?  Sure  – we know and talk of that, our testimony about the Logos – the Word of God – Jesus?  yes definitely!

But… death?  Especially the death caused because of our witness to Christ?  You see that is what a martyr is – one who testifies in view of death.  And will embrace it because of that truth.

That is where I find the grace to even thik about praying for terrrorists, to hear the words, “pray for all people” and to know it includes those who encourage suicide bombers, shooters and others who are so full of sin and hatred that this is the answer they look for in life.

And then I remember those words from Ezekiel, those words that point to Jesus on the cross so clearly… for there we saw the truth of it.

God wouldn’t take pleasure in the deaths of terrorists, or those who indoctrinate or teach them.   Not for a second.  Anymore than He takes pleasure in any death, for at one time, we were all enemies.. and still Jesus died… we’ve sinneds, murfering people in our hearts, just as surely as others have done it physically.

And He loves us and pursues us and calls us… and prayerfully we hear and realize He forgives us and marks us as His.

This is perhaps the hardest and most blessed truth…. God loves and died for the terrorists as much as He did for the martyrs…..and weeps over the deaths of all.

Now… in this day – you have had some who’ve irritated you, you’ve had those people and those moments were you were just pissed off, you may have been betrayed, even brutally so…

So read those verses again – think through them… and ask God to touch those who’ve done you wrong…even as you rejoice in His bringing you back to Him.

And when its hard…to do this… cry Lord Have Mercy!

 

 

 

 

The Cost of being a Christian….Martyrdom

Today’s Devotional/discussion thought:

 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.   Revelation 12:10-11 (NLT)

     I will grant that you behave properly… But, allow me to speak sincerely. You must admit that you are doing things in such a leisurely way that, apart from not being entirely happy, you remain very far from holiness. That is why I ask: Do you really behave properly? Could it be that you have a mistaken idea of what is proper?  (1)

This morning, my sermon is about being a disciple, about being united not just in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, but to be united to His desire that drove him to the cross.

That’s something I think we overlook a little – being united to the cross includes being united to His heart, His soul, His will.  Therefore to the Father’s will as well.

To know and to desire that no one should perish, but that all would come to eternal life.  To desire this so much, that we are willing to give up our lives to see it occur.   Whether that means martyrdom, as is becoming a daily event again in Egypt, and has been the case in so many other places, or whether it means putting to death our normal desires and wants – to see His accomplished.  Will we give up an afternoon of rest to be there for a friend, will we drive a few hours to hold the hand of someone who needs it?  Will we forsake our treasures, our bank accounts, even our families, when God chooses and anoints us to be the one who reveals God’s love to others?  We are called to love others, as Christ loved us…

You see – martyrdom isn’t just physically dying for our faith.  The word means to testify, a testimony of one’s life – what we are willing to die rather than recant.   It means putting others needs first – sacrificing our lives for theirs.

It’s not about our death – it’s about that to which we testify, that to which we witness with our very lives..

I think we, in our comfort, in our lack of external physical threat – forget that we too are called to be martyrs.. to give our life, as the One we are united to, gave His…for us.

A heavy call indeed… yet one we need to respond to…and only can…as we know the love of Christ.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 848-852). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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