Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Persecuted Church


Christianity seems so commonplace in this country that many forget how truly radical Christian beliefs are. The very idea of God becoming man so scandalized the once glorious angel Lucifer that he rebelled against God, too proud to worship Christ in the lowly guise of a man. Even now, Lucifer rages against Christ’s followers. This rebellion takes shape today in the bloody attacks of Islamic terrorist groups against all who do not believe as they do, often singling out Christians with a special vengeance. With stunning frequency, videotaped murders of Christians appear online, while reports of cold-blooded massacres of hundreds of innocent schoolchildren, university students, churchgoers, or Sunday shoppers pour in. Countless victims are kidnapped, raped, enslaved, or murdered in the name of Allah.
Facing the reality of this horrific violence is difficult. I cringe at the bloody photographs that appear on the news and avoid watching the videos released by the terrorists. But recently, after hearing about an ISIS video showing the beheading of 21 Ethiopian Christians, I watched a video response: “Who Would Dare to Love ISIS: A Letter From the People of the Cross.” This beautiful short film, linked below, included a clip from the ISIS video.

 

I watched as the 21 men were led across a beach by masked assassins, not one among them begging for his life or pleading for mercy. As the men were forced to kneel before their executioners, the camera paused momentarily on the face of one young man, eyes closed, praying silently, his countenance reflecting great peace. Not one of those young men was overcome by hate or fear: not one gave in to the demand to deny Christ. The clip ended before the beheadings but those brave men all died that day. Yet even in death, they were victorious.  

The slickly produced ISIS video, intended as a propaganda tool, will surely backfire, touching many hearts as it did mine. The visual evidence of the courage of these men and others like them may wake up Christians everywhere, even in our peaceful and often complacent country. As in the early days of Christianity, the faith and hope shown by these modern martyrs in the face of death will convert hearts and minds, perhaps even winning the hearts of their persecutors for Christ.

We may never face death for our faith but the day will come when we must decide if we will stand with Christ – or deny Him. Jesus warned, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you… in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.”(Jn. 15:20, 16:2) In preparation for this spiritual battle, we must arm ourselves with prayer.

Recently in Nigeria, where persecution by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram is severe, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme was praying the rosary in his chapel, distraught by the violence decimating his people, when Jesus appeared to him in a vision, holding out a sword. As the Bishop reached for the sword, it became a rosary. Jesus gave it to him, saying, “Boko Haram is gone.” (see link below for more details about this vision.)
In this battle, Jesus shows us the path to victory. Will we take it? Trust in Him, pray always, and take courage. He is calling you to follow Him to the glory of the Cross. Even in the darkest night, the Light of Christ shines, and the darkness has not overcome it. This battle is the Lord’s, and He has won the victory.
 
 
 
 

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