“The oftener we are mown down by you,
the more in number we grow;
the blood of Christians is seed.”
~ Tertullian ~
All Middle-Eastern Christians a target, says Iraqi al-Qaeda
THE terrorist group claiming responsibility for a hostage-taking that led to 52 deaths in a Baghdad church last Sunday evening announced on Wednesday that it now saw all Christians in the Middle East as “legitimate targets”.
Our answer to this blindness is: we remember with great JOY what our Lord told us beforehand:
“Blessed the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed they who are persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Blessed are ye when they may reproach and persecute you, and say every wicked thing against you, lying, for my sake. Rejoice and exult, for your reward is great in the heavens; for thus have they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:9-12)
“These things I have spoken unto you that ye may not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues; but the hour is coming that every one who kills you will think to render service to God; and these things they will do because they have not known the Father nor me. But I have spoken these things to you, that when their hour shall have come, ye may remember them, that I have said [them] unto you. But I did not say these things unto you from [the] beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:1-4)
“The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the bondman above his lord. [It is] sufficient for the disciple that he should become as his teacher, and the bondman as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household? Fear them not therefore; for there is nothing covered which shall not be revealed, and secret which shall not be known. What I say to you in darkness speak in the light, and what ye hear in the ear preach upon the houses. And be not afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul; but fear rather him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father; but of you even the hairs of the head are all numbered. Fear not therefore; ye are better than many sparrows. Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, I also will confess him before my Father who is in [the] heavens. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in [the] heavens.” (Matthew 10:24-33)
“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, know that it has hated me before you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on account of this the world hates you. Remember the word which I said unto you, The bondman is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my word, they will keep also yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they have not known him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He that hates me hates also my Father.” (John 15:17-23)
And our Lord’s Apostles said:
“through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
“And all indeed who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? According as it is written, For thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we have been reckoned as sheep for slaughter. But in all these things we more than conquer through him that has loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which [is] in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
“For this [is] acceptable, if one, for conscience sake towards God, endure griefs, suffering unjustly. For what glory [is it], if sinning and being buffeted ye shall bear [it]? but if, doing good and suffering, ye shall bear [it], this is acceptable with God. For to this have ye been called; for Christ also has suffered for you, leaving you a model that ye should follow in his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, [when] reviled, reviled not again; [when] suffering, threatened not; but gave [himself] over into the hands of him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:19-23)
“Beloved, take not [as] strange the fire [of persecution] which has taken place amongst you for [your] trial, as if a strange thing was happening to you; but as ye have share in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice, that in the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exultation. If ye are reproached in [the] name of Christ, blessed [are ye]; for the [Spirit] of glory and the Spirit of God rests upon you: [on their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified.] Let none of you suffer indeed as murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or as overseer of other people’s matters; but if as a christian, let him not be ashamed, but glorify God in this name. For the time of having the judgment begin from the house of God [is come]; but if first from us, what [shall be] the end of those who obey not the glad tidings of God? And if the righteous is difficultly saved, where shall the impious and [the] sinner appear? Wherefore also let them who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing to a faithful Creator.” (1 Peter 4:12-19)
Indeed, it is in the fire of persecution that the true gold is revealed, the true Christians shine and the Church grows! Just as Tertullian said, “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.” The blood of the martyrs makes the Church grow and get strengthened in her witness. Persecution is a necessity and not just an obstacle that the Church needs to overcome in order to grow. All those who want to live godly in Christ Jesus will surely be persecuted. And Muslims serve the purpose of God without even knowing it! It is just like what happened to those godless men when they crucified the Lord of Glory. The Apostle Paul says: “for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). What a crime: crucifying God incarnate, the Lord of Glory! And what a crime to persecute the body of Christ, the Bride, the Church whose persecutors hear from the Lord the following words: “why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) Yes, persecuting the Church is like persecuting the Lord Jesus, and persecuting the Lord Jesus is hating the One who sent Him, as we have also seen above in the quoted verses. If those who crucified the Lord knew Him, they would not crucify Him, but God made them serve His purpose to finish His Work of Salvation: “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:23) In the same way, Muslims today are serving the purpose of God. Just as many godless men through ages have persecuted the Church and have contributed in that way to her growth, the Muslims also today shed the blood of the martyrs which, contrary to the purpose of those Muslim persecutors, becomes the seed from which the Church grows. They try to kill her, and by that very act they make her grow more and more! This is how the Sovereign Lord controls all events and uses even the evil purposes of godless men for His good purpose. So we are winning while we look defeated, just as our Lord was defeating sin and the devil and death while He looked weak and defeated on the cross! And the Muslims who accuse others of persecuting the prophets are being themselves the persecutors of the prophets of God…
And for those who know Arabic:
ترنيمة يا كنيسة الشهداء
Christian brothers and sisters, the verb to witness in Greek is from the same root of the word martyr. Let us be ready to be martyrs of the Lord, His witnesses. Let us be ready to enter the furnace with the Lord, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego did. He has overcome the world! He said: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Our colors should be clear, as the following text, written by an African Martyr the night before his martyrdom, says:
My Colors Will Be Clear
I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The dye has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, shut up, slow down, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, promotions, plaudits, or praise. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, regarded, praised, or rewarded. I now live by His presence, lean by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of compromise, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up until I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stayed up, and stored up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go until He comes, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He stops. And when He comes for His own, He’ll have no trouble recognizing me — my colors will be clear.