This week came the news of twenty-one Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIL militants on the shore of Tripoli, Libya. This is an atrocity no matter who it was perpetrated upon or by whom, but it brings up particular questions for Christians worldwide. One of the biggest questions is, what do we do?
The standard answer is to pray. In a lot of ways this answer is both profoundly right and deeply wrong. It’s wrong because it’s not enough, and we can feel it. Certainly prayer alone can bring about great and miraculous moves of God, but many thousands have been praying for persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide for many years and yet these were still brutalized. Yet again, James 5:15-16 tells us exactly how effective fervent prayer can be. God’s ways are unfathomable, and it’s not wrong to pray even when it’s not effective in the way we would desire. So what more can we do than pray fervently?
We love others above ourselves, we’re not second to one as one of my favorite Newsboys songs says, we’re second to all. This love must be sincere and never failing. This is the heart of Romans 12:9-21. We’re to be utterly devoted, honoring others over ourselves, never lacking in zeal, serving the Lord and others. We are to bless those who persecute us, bless and specifically NOT curse. Wait, what!? No cursing of our own persecutors, much less those who persecuted our brothers and sisters? I can’t lie, and pardon me for assuming you’re with me on this, I hate the ones who perpetrated this barbarity on our fellow believers. How could it be any other way? I can’t go any further in the passage, this is already impossible.
It occurs to me at this point that a good rule of thumb when it comes to God’s requests (a.k.a. commands, you might even say commandments, eh?) is that if they seem to be to be possible God’s not the one asking. This is why we come back around to prayer being the profoundly right thing to do. It is the necessary first step. We need to call down fire from heaven into our souls to burn away ME and leave only love for and mourning with our persecuted brothers and sisters, for our churches, our families, our friends, OUR ENEMIES, OUR PERSECUTORS, THE OPPRESSORS OF BELIEVERS WORLDWIDE, and yes even the lady who gossips about you behind your back at work. We’ll get on our knees at our bedsides or wherever it is you go to pray, and we’ll get on our knees corporately and we’ll weep and we’ll beg God to save those in need and to awaken those who’ve put them there. Then we’ll say one more prayer…
“Lord, send your Holy Spirit to dwell within my heart that I may feel your love well up in me toward all your people. Help me to look past my hate into the heart of my enemies. I cannot do this without you, Lord. If I’m being honest, most of the time I don’t even want to do it with your help. I need you now as ever to infuse my every cell with your being that I might do what is right in your eyes that all who you would bring to yourself would hear your name on my lips and in my life. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
He asks us to do the impossible task and then He waits for us to ask Him. It’s not a cop-out because it’s not easy, if it is you’re not doing it right. Pray about that first.
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