I worship at a church that proclaims Unity in the Essentials and Liberty in the Non-Essentials. So I look for Christians in every possible place, in all denominations or non-denominations; I look and I find them both active in religious activity as well as in unlikely places for some have departed the institutional church, but still would stand for Christ. I look and I find that for all the differences, we are more alike than different.
While reading several articles, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc about the 21 men executed by ISIS, I have come to the conclusion that ISIS did not inquire about what denomination of Christianity they were connected to or even how religious they were. They could have cared less about their beliefs about Holy Communion, Baptism, or liturgy, their view of the social gospel, their stance on evangelism or missions, their political leanings, their education. ISIS targeted them because they were CHRISTIANS, believers in Jesus Christ.
It made me very aware that we Christians are more alike than different, at least in the eyes of our enemies. It came to me that here at Lent, a season of reflection on the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we like our Lord are at a Cross road. We can choose to stand together as Christians, who just happen have different faith traditions. Or we can choose to see ourselves in our own little church houses as the Only Christians. We can treat with suspicion those who do not express their love of God the same way we do or we can demonstrate Christ’s love among believers that will challenge the suspicions of non-believers. We can make fun of each other or we can laugh together.
However, we choose, the BIG Enemy, who is not ISIS, but Satan will use our divisiveness for his purposes. He will use tools like ISIS, political divisiveness, apathy, bigotry, and distorted media images in his attempt to discredit, destroy, and render ineffective the message of the Cross. He delights in our squabbles among ourselves and our tendency to distance ourselves from Christ when it is controversial or uncomfortable…when it might cost me something. But tools like ISIS could care less about all that. They target even the most apathetic Christians.
Should ISIS or a group like them come, it won’t matter whether you or I are a democrat, republican, independent, libertarian, or totally non-political. They may come for the Jews first, for the Catholics, Presbyterians, or Evangelicals second. They may come for the wishy washy backsliders next, but make no mistake as Martin Niemoller discovered in Nazi Germany, they will come for you or me.
If we are to demonstrate Love and Life which are the Core Strength of the Gospel, we must stand up for the persecuted around the globe as followers of Christ and decry the actions of evil belief systems and those who promote them. We must find our voice from our Lord. We must forgive our enemies and pray for them. We must be innocent as doves and clever as snakes. AND WE MUST STAND TOGETHER!
I personally request that as you look at the list of the 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS that you pray for their families and also pray for the offenders the prayer of Christ on the Cross, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Pray that the enemies of the Cross will have their blind eyes opened, their hearts softened, and their souls redeemed, but if they choose to remain blind give our leaders wisdom in how to defeat them. Pray for the persecuted, abandoned, empty hearted people around the world that they might find protection, peace, and provision. Pray for how you can respond to these needs responsibly and with love.