Death before Betrayal
The Word says, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them – those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Hebrews chapter 13:3).
Believing Christians belong to the family of Christ, and are so close-knit, that we are His body.
This means that He feels our sorrows, as when He met angry, raving Saul on the Damascus road and challenged him, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). It also means that we feel one another’s sorrows, as we belong to the same body.
As I write, we hear almost daily reports of cruel killing of Shiites, Christians and Zoroastrians by a Sunni (Koranic) Muslim army calling itself the Islamic State. Harmless people without provocation have been killed – according to the dictate of the Koran – because of their refusal to accept Islam. Some have been crucified, some slowly beheaded, some buried alive, others burned. Women have been abducted, small children beheaded. The killers advertise their vile deeds on Youtube.
Where was God in this anarchy? He was with His people, strengthening them to be faithful even to their death. He may move some of the killers to repent as they see the reality of Christian faith, and He may harden the hearts of others for eternal punishment. Those who despise a powerless victim are ripe for it.
This wanton slaughter has been made possible as western leaders have bent over backwards to appease Sunni Muslims; only a year ago the American President and the British Prime Minister were proposing military aid to this same side waging war in neighbouring Syria.
President Obama also criticised the Iraqi government for failure to involve Sunnis in power sharing, when Iraq has suffered thousands of deaths through bombing by Sunni separatists. Mr Obama never mentioned the systematic genocide of Christians by the same Sunni separatists.The take-over of Iraq by the Islamic State is now being resisted, but delay has cost the lives of many thousands of people and has led to the displacement of 500,000 refugees, chiefly Christians.
Plainly in the minds of western leaders, Christians in northern Iraq count for very little compared with oil supplies, but let us not forget the most compelling reason why northern Iraq’s Christians are now either dead or refugees: their loyalty to Christ. They could certainly have escaped their cruel deaths by simply reciting the “confession” which would admit them as Muslims. They have lived their whole lives aware that this “confession” would relieve them of the bullying and harrassment of daily life as Christians in Islamic society.
Yet rather than be identified with their oppressor, they have chosen to die as true Christians; they are now in the presence of their Good Shepherd, who says: “whoever confesses me before men, him the Son of Man will also confess before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8).
We honour the noble army of martyrs. If you want an example of God’s power today strengthening His people to faithfully represent Him and His glorious gospel, it is here on your television screen on the dry plains of Iraq. By God’s grace in Jesus, may He find us also faithful.
With love in Christ,
Ken Martin, Minister