The martyrdom of our Christian brothers and sisters at the hands of Islamic terrorists has come to the forefront this month (November 2010) in Iraq. Christians have been killed in raids and bombings in an offensive by Islamic terrorists to drive Christians from Iraq.
Fifty-two hostages and police were killed when an attempt by Iraqi security forces to free more than 100 Catholics held in a Baghdad church by al Qaeda-linked gunmen turned into a bloodbath. (November 1, 2010)
Iraqi Human Rights Minister Wijdan Michael, a Christian, said at the scene of the Baghdad attack: “What happened was more than a catastrophic and tragic event. In my opinion, it is an attempt to force Iraqi Christians to leave Iraq and to empty Iraq of Christians.”
There is “a deliberate will to destroy the Christian community,” said France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud, Wednesday in New York. (November 10, 2010)
In the west there has been a consistently escalating war against Christianity in the political, social, cultural, educational and entertainment arenas for several generations. In the east where Christians are a minority among the population the war against Christianity has frequently added violence to the list. Imprisonment, torture, rape and murder are unfortunate realities for Christians in Muslim countries as well as other Asian nations. Many of our brothers and sisters pay a high and heavy price for the faith that we are allowed to practice so freely in the west.
It is in moments like this, when these crimes are publicized (such as in Iraq) that Christians have an opportunity to stand with our persecuted brethren and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christians have been persecuted and martyred since the book of Acts. We have faced many attacks and enemies; yet the message of the gospel continues to be preached and men and women continue to come to faith in Jesus Christ.
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
When we see crimes committed against our brothers and sisters we can easily become outraged and want to react in the flesh; moving back to the Old Testament’s “an eye for an eye.” This is not the New Testament reaction. This reaction is not turning the other cheek or walking the extra mile (Matthew 5:39-41). This reaction is not praying for those who despitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). Our enemies are not the people but the spirit behind the people. The crimes and sins of those who persecute us and our fellow believers will receive justice (if not in this world then in the next). Our command is to love, forgive and preach the gospel.
The goal of these attacks (or any like them) is to drive Christianity and the preaching of the gospel from a place where the enemy has a strong foothold. The enemy does not want Christians living in peace in Islamic nations. The enemy does not want the gospel being freely shared in the Middle-East, China, India, Africa, Europe, the U.S. or any place else. He will use whatever method of resistance available to him to either discourage believers or eliminate them.
These terrorists feel 100% justified in their activities and behavior because they believe that their god, Allah, has commanded them to do that which they are doing. Jesus spoke of such a time.
I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me. (John 16:1-3)
The Christian reaction to this event should be:
- Prayer for those being persecuted
- Prayer for the persecutors
- Prayer for the salvation of the nation of Iraq
- Giving to the families who have been displaced and driven from their homes
- Giving to missions and ministries who are preaching the gospel in Iraq
- We should be sharing the gospel with every lost person we can find
- We should be drawing attention to our fellow believers’ persecution in our churches, work places, schools and in our governments.
Although we are not wrestling against people, we are wrestling. We are wrestling with the evil spirits who would keep the gospel from reaching the people Jesus Christ died to save. We are wrestling with the ideologies and religions that deny the truth of the gospel and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are wrestling with poverty, ignorance and injustice.
The reaction of the church to persecution in an area of the world should never be retreat. Our reaction should be to move forward. The devil does not want the gospel in Iraq but Jesus does. Islam is the greatest opposition to the gospel in the earth today. Jesus died to save every person, including Muslims. When we are persecuted we should determine to cause damage to the kingdom of darkness by fulfilling the Great Commission. The enemies of the gospel cannot stop the love and power Jesus Christ.
As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,
‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’
“In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31)
Many Christian families are leaving Iraq because they do not want to be killed. They are fleeing to nations like Syria and Jordan where there are larger Christian populations. I pray that the hand of God’s protection would lead them out of danger and into a place of safety. I pray that those who are determined to stay are filled fresh with the Holy Spirit and boldness – that they may provide powerful witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I want to keep this message short. My purpose in writing is threefold:
- Draw attention to the situation and let our fellow believers know that we are praying and standing with them.
- Encourage you to be a force that strikes back against the kingdom of darkness in prayer, giving and preaching.
- Encourage you to pray for Iraq, the Christians who are being persecuted and the salvation of the nation.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)