Today my heart is broken for the Church in Iraq and Syria. As ISIS overruns more of Iraq, they are brutally exercising their power by murdering Christians. In an interview with CNN Mark Arabo, a Chaldean-American businessman said, “Children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being [hanged],” adding that they “are systematically beheading children, and mothers and fathers. The world hasn't seen an evil like this for generations.”
As I clicked through the pictures of ISIS terrorists murdering my Christian brothers and sisters, I came across a picture of two small children laying their heads against a rock just before the blades were to meet their necks. I imagined what they might be feeling. I Had their parents already been killed or were they being forced to watch? Did they feel alone and afraid?
Strangely, I didn't really think, "What if they were my children?" I didn't have to. I was immediately overtaken with the knowledge that these were my brothers' children. Men and women who know Jesus as I know Him were experiencing the worst suffering I can imagine.
It is a stark contrast to the Christian life I am living. As I read, my Facebook feed is peppered with quotes, videos, and pictures. I briefly consider the strange reality of information procurement in the 21st century. I see an image of a beheaded toddler and then a comedic collage of children the same age saying funny things into a camera.
In this moment of surrealism, I consider the Christian authors we have propped up in our culture. The most popular book by the most popular Pastor in America is called "Your Best Life Now." Another Christian author and speaker is known for exuberant wealth and asserting that Jesus would have His own jet if He was on earth today. The most popular "Christian" television channel is populated with speakers that reflect a value for material blessing over suffering in the Christian life.
I took some time to search "ISIS Christian persecution and (Popular Christian Author Names)." I couldn't find any quotes from Christian authors that focus on material blessings. Maybe they haven't been following it. Maybe they know better than to tout a "health and wealth" gospel to Christians who have lost everything and watched their families's beheadings.
The sad reality is that the Church has been suffering heavy persecution for a long time. What we are seeing in Iraq is particularly heinous, but it isn't particularly new. We just haven't felt it here.
This is what concerns me. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, Paul talks about the Church as a body. He speaks of how closely knit we are to be, because we are all baptized into one body and share the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jews, Greeks, slaves, and free are all one in Christ. This unity sounds wonderful. It is. There is something powerful about going to a country where you don't speak the language or know the people and finding deep relationships in a moment, because of the unity of the Spirit. The unity of the Spirit is a wonderful thing.
However, verse 26 goes on to say, "If one member suffers, all suffer together." Here is where it get's tricky. Will we halt our Sunday plans to grieve with and pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq? There may be little that we can do physically. But, if I was watching terrorists sever my daughter's head and rape my wife, I would wish that my brothers and sisters in safety were interceding for us in churches across the world. If worship services and light shows went on without pause, if sermon series carried on without interruption, if no one remembered us in prayer, I would feel very alone.
Today, don't feel as if you can't enjoy blessings. You don't have to sit in ashes and try to suffer. Just don't pretend that our brothers and sisters aren't dying by the sword. Remember them and pray.