We’ve heard a lot about the terrorist organization known as ISIS over the past year or so. This savage group of radical Muslims has made it their mission to persecute and savagely murder anyone who doesn’t agree with their ideals and follow their laws. This includes Christians.
I’m not going to get into what I personally think about ISIS and the persecution of Christians. That isn’t this post.
What I want to talk about, is what I see when I am confronted with this violent barbarianism on my television, in my reading, or on the Internet.
In particular, I want to focus on the picture I have branded in my memory, the mass beheadings of Ethiopian Christians in Libya, which occurred several months ago.
The thing that has perplexed me the most is not the grotesqueness of what I know is about to happen to these men, or the disgust I have that the world is just standing by and allowing this to happen, or the many other things that are floating through my mind, even now, as I look at this picture again.
The thing that gets me is this…..
Where are the tears?
When I see this image, and all of the images that I have seen before and after this shot, I see no fear. I see none of these victims sobbing or begging for mercy or even praying.
They actually look stoic!
And I wonder….
What do they understand that I don’t understand? What do they have that we, American Christians, don’t have?
Why are WE so scared?
As Americans, we are terrified of the thought of dying! Even we Christians, when the chips are down, fear death immensely.
So maybe the question
we should be asking is NOT what do they have that we don’t but instead, what do WE have that they DO NOT?
A lot of things come to mind…
- Peppermint latte’s
- Theme parks
- Mutual funds
- Playoff games
- Vacation rentals in the Outer Banks
- Running water
The list could go on forever!
- Maybe those guys who are getting their heads sliced off actually get it, where we just claim that we do!
(We talk a good game)
- Maybe they realize this life is just a rehearsal for what is yet to come!
- Maybe they realize they are only seconds away from meeting Jesus, and spending eternity with Him, and to them, this prospect is an invitation they have only dreamed about! Something that they yearn for!
- Maybe they’ve accepted this world is jacked up and death is just as much a part of life, as breathing is, and it is not something to be feared!
- Maybe they truly believe their greatest mission in this life is to disciple others, and they realize that if you want others to truly believe what you teach, they must see that you truly believe it as well!
- Maybe to them, church is not a place that has a cafe where they can purchase coffee and snacks, or an online gift shop where they can purchase t-shirts and water bottles sporting their favorite church’s logo!
- Maybe to them, church is the body of Christ spreading the love of Christ at the expense of themselves!
Then I realized….
I still don’t get it!
- Even though I talk like I get it
- Even though I honestly feel I understand it
- Even though I know I should get it or I seem to get it
- Even though I love God
- I’m not there!
I think if we were honest with each other, most of us would confess that we’re not there.
I want to see my daughters grow up!
I want to make sure my wife will be taken care of!
I still have things on my “bucket list” I want to check-off!
I am NOT at the place where if I knew that today was THE day, I would be OK with it.
I still think I should have more control, not only of this life, but what happens after this life.
Even though I know my reward after my death is an eternity spent in the company of my loving Jesus, which is AMAZING, I am still holding on tightly to this world.
1 John 2:15-17 tells us very clearly:
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
We can say all day long we believe this, but our actions speak louder than words. We often try to justify death to others. We say things like “everything happens for a reason”, and “it was just his time to go”. We say these things to try to ease the pain that comes from losing a loved one. But we also say these things to try to make sense of something we can’t control.
And here’s the thing,
we cannot control when we will meet death.
We try to pray it away.
We try to speak it away.
We try to heal it away.
But inevitably…. it comes.
Why do we pray it doesn’t come? Why do we BEG God to prolong the inevitable for us? It’s because we’re not ready to go. We’re stuck in this world.
In Daniel 3:17-18, three guys are about to be executed by the king, for not bowing down to a statue he created. In essence, they are being persecuted for not worshiping something other than the one true God (that’s a whole other blog post).
This is their response:
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Did you see what happened there???? Did you miss it????
They fully believe God can deliver them, but then they say the word “IF“!!!
IF He doesn’t!!
IF HE DOESN’T?
Why would He NOT?
- Doesn’t He love them?
- Doesn’t He want to protect them?
- Doesn’t He want to save them?
- Doesn’t He want them to live forever?
What if I told you that God is not the Genie from Aladdin?
What if I told you the God of the universe may not be up in Heaven just pacing back and forth wondering when you will need Him to perform a miracle to prove He is God?
What if these three guys realized God is a good God, even when they are facing death?
What if these three guys weren’t holding on so tightly to this world, they were just as ready to go meet God NOW, as they would be LATER?
That’s what I see when I look at the faces of the ISIS victims in the photo above.
- I see the faces of men who aren’t afraid of death.
- I see the faces of men who aren’t wrapped too tightly in this life or this world.
- I see the faces of men who believe what they have preached.
- I see the faces of men who have absolutely no doubt about what they believe.
In Romans 8:35-37, The apostle Paul tries to explain to us that Christ loves us, even as we experience life, and death:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
I’m going to be honest….
I want to be real with you….
I want to get to the point in my life, that I have the faith these men have.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not there yet, although I know I should be.
I’m praying I get there.
I’m praying to become the person who would profess Christ’s love for this world with my dying last breath, instead of wasting it by begging God for more time.
I’m praying what I have learned and what I preach to others will soon become what I demonstrate. I pray to be released from the fear of death.
What would this world look like if it were full of Christians who weren’t fearful?
Do you think that God really expects us to not fear death?