by A. Maeve McDonald
As a relatively sheltered Christian (at least for now) living in a relatively free country (at least for now), I've found the unconscionable atrocities against fellow believers—men, women, and children—at the hands of the Islamic State to be literally unthinkable, too horrific to fully contemplate, as I'm sure is the case for many others. We see the headlines as they pop up in our newsfeed, or flash by on our TV screens. But it is impossible to truly absorb the horror of what we're seeing. So, sometimes, we scroll past wearily without trying. It all seems too much. Yet, these atrocities are actually happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ, even as I write this.
So, when confronted with Christians being buried alive or barbarically decapitated...when confronted with the burnt bodies of our little ones...when confronted with the reality that ISIS terrorists are growing in power...how should the Church respond?
Empathize: The Apostle Paul exhorts us to remember those who suffer for the sake of the faith as if we ourselves are suffering in their place (Heb 13:3). He urges us to mourn with those who mourn, and to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15). So, it's important that we don't emotionally distance or disassociate ourselves from the plight of the suffering Church, because we are all members of the same Body. No matter how far apart we are geographically, culturally, or economically, we are all children of the living God, bound together in the love of Christ. When one member of the Body suffers, the whole Body is affected (1 Cor 12:26).
Encourage: But while we may be perplexed at the suffering of our fellow believers, we must not despair (2 Cor 4:8). And while we empathize, we must not dwell on evil. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). Amen! We need not fear men or what they can do to our earthly bodies, for our hope is in Christ, not in this world. God's judgment is coming. And as horrifying as the atrocities in the Middle East are, we can rest in, and encourage others with, the truth that the saints who are dying for their faith look forward to an eternal reward. Their momentary earthly affliction is preparing for them an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17). For they are victors—not victims—for God's glory!
Pray, Pray, Pray: And so we pray. It is the single-most important thing we can do. We pray for the persecuted, that they won't lose heart. We pray for the oppressor, that they will repent and believe. We pray for the Church, that we will stand firm in our faith. We pray for this broken world, that Jesus will be made known in it…
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