Remember those martyr stories we read about in High School where a random violent intruder asked someone if they were a Christian?
I vaguely remember one of my Sunday School Classes at our local church growing up. A Parent Volunteer teacher told a story where an armed gunman knocked down the door to some church in China asking people if they were Christians or not. He pulled the gun on people who were lined up in a row, and went down the line one by one by one, ‘Do you believe in Jesus?’ and if the answer was YES then he would shoot them.
I was 13.
Never mind the mental warp that happens when you’re 13 years old and you start listening to this crazy story of murder for faith, but let’s focus on what was really going on.
Stand up for the Gospel
Recently, I’ve been thinking about this rally cry Stand up for the Gospel. What does it actually mean? Does standing up for the gospel mean, in the face of death believers blurt out what they think about God? Does it mean I should carry my Bible so everyone who walks by me can see I’m outwardly showing my faith? Do I wear Christian T-Shirts, Listen to Christian Music, and isolate myself from any part of the world through the name of Jesus?
Well, that doesn’t sound very Biblical.
I suppose if someone came into the church with a weapon and asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” I would hope I could look down the long barrel of a weapon and say, “Yes.” But if someone came into the church and said, “Are you a Christian?” That term carries with it a very different set of implications.
What is a Christian?
Is a Christian someone who shows up at a weekly meeting of like-minded followers?
Is a Christian someone who eats certain foods and denies others?
Is a Christian someone willing to take up arms and defeat the infidel?
Is a Christian a hard liner who obeys rules he interprets in Scripture?
Is a Christian someone free from the rules by the work and life of Jesus?
Are you a Christian because your family was Christian?
Are you a Christian because you went to a Christian School growing up?
Are you a Christian because you follow Jesus?
All of answers to those questions would be “Yes” through the last 2000 years of history, so when you call yourself a “Christian” there probably needs to be a definition of what it means.
Christian can be a non-violent activist like Martin Luther King Jr. or the leader of the Crusades responsible for the ruthless slaughtering of millions. Both are called Christian in history. So when we hear stories of ISIS Killing Christians, what does that mean?
What Christians are ISIS Killing?
Here in America we often think people who identify themselves as Christians are people who heard a message, came down front, prayed a prayer, and signed on with some kind of movement with Jesus. The central theme here is, Do you follow Jesus or not? Right? I mean if someone decides to follow Jesus in America, the traditional Christians rejoice that someone is agreeing with their view, and then quickly they are indoctrinated to go to Bible Studies, Worship at Church, and do the stuff American Christians do.
That’s not the case in the Middle East.
Here in America there’s an underlying current of freedom that flows like a river through our culture. We perceive the option to be Christian is something everyone is afforded, and the consequences would be minor. If my neighbor’s son decided to become a Christian, He would still be a part of my neighbors family. He would just start going to church or something.
The Christians ISIS are targeting have nothing in common to my neighbor.
If someone in the Middle East, “converts” to another religion, it’s like they are denying their whole existence. Everything they know from family to job opportunities, worldview to community acceptance are in jeaporday. So often Christians are people who just happened to live in the Christian part of the community, and be a part of a Christian Tribe or family their whole lives.
One thing is for sure, No one is pulling guns out and asking, “Do you believe in Jesus” and then killing them as was told by my Sunday School Teacher.
Christian in the Middle East is a Tribal community. It’s a family name and a tribal identity. The Christians ISIS are removing from Mosel are largely a tribal group of people who have lived in the area for nearly 2000 years. It has little to nothing to do with if anyone is following Jesus, and more to do with something like “There’s a new sheriff in town, and you guys gotta get out of our new country.” Christians are often identified by the clothes they wear, the last name they hold on to, and the methodology of their worship and ritual.
It certainly doesn’t diminish the Barbary of someone who is willing to execute whole groups of people. But for my Christian friends, it’s more like a Mexican Cartel who is beheading people because of drug trafficking than like those scary Martyr Stories that conjure up the fear for standing up for faith.
ISIS hats Christians, not because of Jesus, but because they’re a different tribe.
So what do we do
First, I think each person needs to take a long look into their heart of faith and ask themselves, “Which Christian am I?”
Are you a political Christian?
Are you a social Christian?
Are you a country club Christian?
Or, do you see the word “Christian” as synonymous with following Jesus?
Secondly, If you decide to follow Jesus, you should probably read about Him.
Read what He said to do when you have enemies in the world.
Read what He said to do when you’re enticed to Judge Others.
Read what He says about the Kingdom of God, and who exactly is afforded that Kingdom.
I haven’t read anywhere in Jesus’ teachings where we better “Convert them or Kill them” as the Duck Guy said on T.V. the other day. That might be Christian in some places of the world, but that’s surely not following Jesus.
If you start to read the Bible in Matthew 5,6, and 7, I’m pretty sure you’re going to encounter a different Jesus than most of our tradition allows.
And Third: PRAY
It doesn’t do any good to sit in your house and keep the news on as it gets your motor of fear going.
What about ISIS coming here?
What about all the Americans and Brits who are volunteering for ISIS?
What about those poor families who lost their kids?
TURN OFF THE TV!!! Nobody is getting killed for standing up for the gospel. The murders going on in the region are more like a genocidal act on a tribal group of people, not a faith question.
I know prayer makes a HUGE difference, and we’re often distracted when we have all the Talking Heads shouting at us from our television screens. Those people don’t know any more than you or I do, they’re just the circus in town to sell ads through ratings.
Let’s ban together and pray for people, ALL PEOPLE.
Let’s pray for the Christian Tribes in Iraq.
Let’s pray for the Muslims who are being wrangled in this fight.
Let’s pray for the youth whose worldviews are being shaped by violence and death.
Let’s pray for our leaders to know the wisest course of action.
Let’s pray for the families in the military who are getting ready disembark to the war drums beating in Washington.
This is going to be a long, drawn out conflict that maybe might only be solved when we ask God to save us.