In light of recent news of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt because of their faith, I was reminded of something that I had written 10 years ago for a church history class while in seminary. It was a meditation based on the painting of St. Bartholomew. Christian tradition says that Bartholomew the Apostle was martyred for his faith. It was a brutal execution.
I really want to share one of the meditation’s final paragraphs. Because the point is just as important today as it was when I wrote it ten years ago.
The image of St. Bartholomew calls upon us to pray for the persecuted church around the world. It tells us the story of the millions of Christians who have given their lives for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. It is a startling reminder that the price of following Jesus Christ is not cheap. It is not a road that will be traveled lightly. There will be trials and persecution of all kinds. In the end, it could cost the believer everything – including the loss of life. It is the example of St. Bartholomew that encourages the believer to press on towards the prize, knowing full well the costs involved. It is with that same confidence that we face the perils of following the Lord of all things.
I think these martyred Egyptian Christians do the exact same thing. While the nations rage and come up with a fitting response to these barbaric acts, let us count the cost and take up the cross with reckless abandon. Let us live in boldness, full of hope, joy, and love, as we press on towards Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.
I know it’s not easy. I’m not pretending it is. But this is how we are going to change the world, my friends.
If you’re like me, these words only scratch the surface of the wide range of emotions experienced in the wake of today’s tragedy.
No. Tragedy doesn’t feel like the right word. It isn’t strong enough. But it’s the best I can come up with. So it’ll have to do. And in the wake of this horrible tragedy (there’s that word again), I have a few thoughts to share. Not because I think I have anything profound to say. In fact, I think I have very little to say that’s of any value. But I also feel like I need to get these things out because…well…I just need to get them out. I pray you’ll forgive me if what I say isn’t all that refined or profound. It might not even be coherent.
We need Jesus
I have a friend who says that events like today help solidify her belief that there is no God. I certainly understand that. When you look at how broken things are and how utterly unexplainable something like this is, then I can see why you might conclude that God either doesn’t care or He doesn’t exist. I get it. I really do.
I just disagree.
The world sure feels like it’s spiraling out of control. People are broken. We’re surrounded by darkness. As a society, it feels like we’re on this bus that’s speeding towards a brick wall and we’re showing no sign of slowing down at all. I don’t think this means that there is no God or that He doesn’t care. I firmly believe this shows that the world needs a Savior. The healing, life-changing power of Jesus Christ is what this world needs.
I’m not talking about a political rule. I’m not talking about some establishment of a worldwide neo-Constantinian Christendom. I don’t think that’s the answer. This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a gun control issue. It isn’t even a morality issue. It’s a Jesus issue.
I’m talking about a world where the Holy Spirit guides the hearts of women and men and children and the darkness is pushed back by the light. I know this won’t happen this side of the New Heaven and New Earth. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pursue that, fighting against the enemy every step of the way.
Now more than ever, the world needs a Savior. The world has a Savior. We just need to show Him to everyone.
This is why we have Christmas
Christmas isn’t about Christmas trees. It isn’t about getting together with family. It isn’t about the cookies or the candy or even the presents.
Christmas is about a world that was dark and full of broken people. Christmas is about God wrapping Himself in flesh and piercing the darkness with the light of His love as displayed in the life and ministry of Jesus. And because of that we have hope. Because of that we know there will one day be peace. Not just an absence of fighting and violence (which would be awesome), but real, true, lasting PEACE.
Why didn’t God stop this?
I don’t know.
I really don’t.
I can’t explain why this happened, other than the fact there’s real evil and bad things happen to good people.
But here’s two thoughts that have continued to resonate in my heart and soul this afternoon and evening…
When the world was falling down around King Jehoshaphat, he prayed this prayer:
This should be our prayer every day. Especially in the midst of tragedies like today’s.
I had the honor of preaching in Santa Claus, Indiana, recently. In one of the messages I shared, I said this while discussing the night that Jesus was arrested:
The short answer is ‘Yes.’ God is in control. Why do things like this happen? I have no idea. I just…I really don’t know. I can’t claim to know because I’m not God. But here’s what I do know. God is right there, picking up the pieces alongside of us when things spiral out of control and the world feels completely dark. The Gospel of Luke gives a few more details from this story. In it, he mentions that after telling Peter to stop, Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed it. In the midst of creation’s darkest hours, Jesus was there. He was there picking up the pieces and healing someone who was part of a group that was about to kill him. God was in control then and He’s in control of things now. And He’s the One working towards bringing healing towards our broken world and our broken hearts.
A few random thoughts
Did I hug my kids tighter today? Of course I did. You hugged yours tighter today, too. All of us were reminded to hug our kids every day. Don’t take them for granted. We cannot take them for granted. Ever.
Can we be real for a moment? If I believe that Jesus died for all humanity because He “so loved the world,” then that means that the shooter is a soul that’s precious to Jesus. Jesus died for him, even though he did something monstrous and horrendous and subhuman. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a part of me that kind of likes the thought that he’s receiving punishment right now. The other part of me is disgusted with that part part of me that’s happy with this. Does that make sense? Love is supposed to win. I’m supposed to be celebrating grace. But sometimes it’s just so stinkin’ hard. Because I really don’t want to celebrate grace right now. I had a similar struggle when bin Laden was killed. Yes. I want to have my cake and eat it, too.
Kaitlin Roig needs to be a household name. She is a hero in the truest sense of the word. I don’t care if anyone remembers the murderer’s name. Everyone should know hers!
I remember when it felt like Ronald Reagan spoke directly to me after the Challenger disaster. I think President Obama did something similar today. I don’t give a lick about your political leanings. Put them aside and listen to him.
Love God. Love people. Hug your kids. Do good. I said it before and I’ll say it again. This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a gun control issue. Those are just surface issues, in reality. This is a heart issue. So let’s push back the darkness by allowing the Light to shine even brighter through us.