Right now, in Iraq and Syria, there is a radical militant group seeking to force the evacuation or conversion of all minority religious groups, including Christians. If one refuses conversion or evacuation from his home, he is killed. This is prompting people to label this movement as anything from persecution to all-out genocide. Regardless of what we call it, we can agree that it is both evil and heartbreaking.
These truths cause a variety of reactions in us as we process them. Some are heartbroken and struggle to make sense of a world in which evil can be this predominate. Some struggle to be heartbroken because society seems so saturated with awful news that it is sometimes difficult to fully empathize with every situation. Still others are heartbroken, but at a loss of what to do and how to respond.
So, in the face of this evil, what are we to do? How do we make sense of it? What responsibility does the local church have? More specifically, what can we do at Graystone? What role do we have to play in this tragedy? What is certain is that it would be negligent of us to turn a deaf ear to the suffering. So we must do SOMETHING, but what can we do?
I would like to suggest 3 ways in which we can biblically respond to the persecution happening to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East:
1. Acknowledge that persecution is promised.
Jesus knew this would happen. He told us it would. He said that we are blessed when we are persecuted because of him. The rest of the writers of the New Testament told us that we should expect it, and history proves that they are right. Tragically, Christians have a rich tradition of being heavily persecuted in almost every age of history since Jesus came on the scene. I will not enumerate all the various ways in which Christians have suffered through the centuries, but I will point out that Jesus wept every time they did. This time is no different. What is happening in the Middle East breaks Jesus’ heart.
So, we don’t allow this evil to shake our faith. We understand it as a sign of creation groaning for a return of the Savior (Romans 8). In Revelation 21 when God promises that the “former things will pass away,” these are the former things. Jesus is coming to make it right. Until he does, tragedies will continue to happen as they have since the day man sinned in the garden. Events like this can and should heighten our expectations and hope for a Savior.
2. Ask that God break your heart with his.
I confess that I have had to do this. Often when things happen a world away, we have difficultly fully empathizing with the victims of this tragedy. But refusing to empathize and be heart-broken is unacceptable here. I know that is strong but those being persecuted are adopted sons and daughters of the same King we belong to. When we get to heaven, we will share it with them. So, because we are family, we mourn together. This means that if we are not moved by what is happening we may want to hit our knees and ask that God would move us and burden our hearts in the same way that his is burdened.
3. Now, we pray.
As we pray, we keep an eternal perspective. We remember that it is God’s will that all should come to know him (1 Timothy 2:4). So we pray, first and foremost, that this would lead people to a saving knowledge of God. Because of this there are three groups of people that it would be right and good to pray for:
1. Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters.
Pray for strength for them and their families. Pray for protection. Pray that they would exude the grace and wisdom of the Apostle Paul as he was being persecuted. Pray according to 2 Corinthians that even as they are persecuted, that through them would “spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God.” There is no place in the whole world for the light of God to shine more brightly than in the midst of this persecution.
2. Pray for the other religions being persecuted.
Christians are not the only ones suffering. There are smaller muslims sects as well as various other religions being forced to convert or evacuate. Let us not only have a heart for our family, but for all men. This is, after all, what God calls us to. Let us pray for protection and strength for these groups as well but most of all that God will use what was intended for incredible evil to bring about the salvation of souls.
3. Pray for those who are doing the persecuting.
Scripture is pretty clear that we are to pray for our enemies. Jesus himself sets this example when he asks the Father to forgive the very men who are killing him. We cannot allow the evil and the hatred in their hearts to turn our hearts to anger. We ought to weep for the fact these men and women are so blinded by evil that they are convinced they are doing good. Let us pray that God opens their eyes.
Certainly there is more to be done and more to be said but these three steps should give us a good start. If you are aware of more ways to help, feel free to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Thu, August 21, 2014
by Nate Rector filed under