A Disciple’s Response to the 21

He muttered it really.  Barely audible, but I knew it meant something to him.  We were setting out overused, overstuffed purple chairs–8 per table.  33 tables.  We expected around 250 people, but his number was 21.

21 beheaded.

Twenty-One Human Beings.

Dead.

I gripped the slick silver aluminum frame of a chair; Did he just say that?  21 people martyred along the Libyan shoreline?

He did.  And he never stopped moving chairs.  Just kept right on going.  A frequent visitor to the Middle East, it’s not the first time he’s received this type of news; it won’t be the last.  And I’m guessing he kept right on moving because most people don’t care that much about some dead Christians across the ocean.  It’s not our father.  Not our husband.  Not our brother.  It’s not the life we lead here–a fear of martyrdom.  Not our life at all.  Even the word–

martyr

–is archaic and far removed from our velour-covered church pews and sprawling church campuses complete with Family Life Centers, industrial kitchens and enough coffee pots caffeinate the state of Texas.

We carried on with our evening.  People would be arriving.  We were having a cake auction fundraiser.  We raise money every year for a not-for-profit camp my husband and I direct.  Every July, our church campus becomes a hub of 450 happy campers and the staff to manage them all.  It costs a lot to make that happen.  Fundraisers are important to us.  And this one raises more than any other fundraiser we do.

The people were arriving–ladies lovely in their red and pink (for Valentine’s), men peacock proud of their wives’ culinary confections and hungry for cake.  They’d open their wallets and their mouths tonight.  The cakes were towers of chocolate ganache, truffles, butter cream, red velvet, raspberries and truffles in seductive designs.  Some would go for over $800 a pop.  And children–many from broken, godless homes–would go to a free camp where Jesus’ love is poured out liberally.  It’s a good thing.

But I couldn’t shake the 21.

Just couldn’t let them go.

That they were beheaded may have added to it.  How can anyone in today’s day and age take a blade and bereave a wife, a daughter, a mother?  Take a sword and with a single slice, swallow the life of another human being?  What evil is this?  What rage and anger and hardness could possibly give the hand the will to wield the sword in this brutal, barbaric way?

I had that chest tightening, air swallowing feeling.  Were they married?  Were they afraid?  Did it hurt?  What about their families?  Did they leave babies and sons?  What if that was my husband?  God help me, what if it was one of my boys?

But there we all are–250 of us–ready to celebrate and eat cake, and I keep thinking of that phrase:

Let them eat cake.

Could I be so callous as to forget on this night while we lick forks and fingers and swallow the sweet that there are 21 families drinking the bitter cup?

And if you want the truth, and if I have the guts to be honest.

I am that callous.

So are you.

Because those 21?  The Egyptian Christians that got a bit of press?  They’re just a drop in the bucket.  In fact, the truth of the matter is that somewhere around the world more deaths occurred the very next day with no fanfare.  No outrage.  No public outcry.  No retaliatory missile strikes.  In fact, the average number of martyrs for their faith is 322 per MONTH.  That’s about 10 lives a day.  That’s close to 1 life per 2.5 hours.  Between my oatmeal and my lunch salad–

a person dies.

And churches and properties are burned.  214 a month. 

And over 750 acts of violence–

rape

beatings

forced marriage

are committed. every.single.month.

Did I cry for the 21?  I did.  For their wives, for their daughters.  For their murderers too.  But what of the others?  What of the one who was raped this morning though I don’t know her name and haven’t seen her face?  Have I cried for her?

I live in a luxurious state of denial with just enough glimpses into reality to justify my return to denial.  I do.

I live in a world where I’ll write a check, click on a link and contribute, and then go watch a movie on Netflix and make plans for soccer practice and youth retreats.

Because I CAN watch Netflix.

Because my son CAN play soccer.

Because our youth CAN have a retreat.  Freely.

But I CAN forget too.  So easily.  What I’ve seen.

And we get in a tizzy, don’t we?  We all cry Down with ISIS and down with the Muslims and down with President Obama and the whole lot of them.  Because  if we can just get rid of the newest extremist group and get the right President in power, then surely all will be well, right?

But there was the white man.  (And history proves he abused Natives and Africans.)

But there was Hitler. (And history proves his atrocities.)

There was Osama Bin Laden. (And we have lived through his evil.)

And now ISIS.

Because goodness, gracious, fellow followers of Christ–we are not wrestling against  ISIS, or Hitler or even ourselves, dear ones.  We are wrestling against principalities and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  And do we even remotely understand the gravity of that?

And if you want me to be frank, which I love being, our tizzies don’t amount to much more than a virtual distraction in the form of blogs and facebook posts.  And after we’ve raged a while, we go and have more cake.

And meanwhile?  The death toll rises.  The destruction continues.

Because evil comes from within.  Like it or not.

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery . . . Mark 7:21

And forgive me for offending, but I can become so distracted with some slip-up the President had at a prayer breakfast that I forget there’s only one cure for evil and it isn’t the President that holds that cure.

We hold it.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:18b, 19

That us.  You and me.

NOT The President.

NOT Congress.

NOT the military.

And don’t hate me.  Of course we fight at the congressional level.  Of course we defend the persecuted.  Of course we challenge the President to speak constructively and wisely.  Of course we stand.  The Bible instructs us to do so.

Stand up for those who are weak and for those whose fathers have died. See to it that those who are poor and those who are beaten down are treated fairly.  Psalm 82:3

But Romans 12 reminds us:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Because the very evil that takes a blade to the throat of an innocent man can overcome us, believers.  It can.  And it has.  The rage.  The backbiting.  The disrespect of our president.  The careless calls of Christians to annihilate every one of them?  This, if you will allow me to say it, is just not overcoming evil with good.  And somehow, we have to reconcile all of scripture.  We don’t get to pick the parts we obey.

So we have to stand up WITH GOOD.

And if we want to be brutally honest, all this raging we’ve been doing?  It negates us as valid contributors in the eyes of mankind because we aren’t offering solutions, we’re only casting stones.  Come, now, let’s just do a little reasoning together.

I’m not foolish enough to think that how we stand up with good will look the same for all of us, but I can tell you how it looks for me–an average house-wife who works from home, homeschools her boys and with her husband, directs a camp and a youth group.  It looks like this:

I’m going

first to my boys and then to our church and then to our community

and making disciples

and teaching them to obey God.

Just one or two or three at a time.  Disciples.  Sharing Christ.  Sharing his love.  Opening my home to any teen that wants to drop in, to any young adult that wants to talk, to any peer who needs help in their walk as a disciple.  We’ll do coffee and we’ll talk Jesus.

Because disciples in their biblical sense are people who follow a specific teacher–Christ, in our case.  Follow His course, follow His teaching, follow his ways, mimic Him in all He does.

So disciples will be about God’s business because Christ said He was about His Father’s business.

And Disciples will love because Jesus loved to the point of death.

And disciples will be okay with losing their lives for Christ’s sake because in the end they will gain it. (Matt. 10:39)

And disciples will  be willing to resist to the point of bloodshed and  grow weary in their souls and give up because they will think of Christ who endured such opposition against himself by sinners. (Heb. 12:3,4)

And disciples will seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33) because that is what Jesus did.

And isn’t that the hardest?  To seek first the kingdom of God?

Before what I want?  Before my comfort and goals and hopes and dreams and ambitions?  Before. EVERYTHING. else?

John Piper, in Don’t Waste Your Life says,

“I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves.  I start to fit in.  I start to love what others love.  I start to call earth “home.”  Before you know it, I am calling luxuries “needs” and using my money just the way unbelievers do.  I begin to forget the war.  I don’t think much about people perishing.  Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind.  I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace.  I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. ”

And a disciple fights against that temptation at all cost.

A Chinese church leader imprisoned for 23 years said this:

“I was pushed into a cell, but you have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God. You need to build yourself a cell, so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me—simplify your life and know God.”

A disciple forces himself into that cell so that he lives and breathes the kingdom of God. And God help me to stay in that place despite my tendency to wander to more comfortable accommodations.

And the kingdom of God is filled with broken people who have been made whole by the unconditional, unfailing, unwavering, uncompromising, unexplainable love of Jesus Christ.

A disciple knows that the cure for evil is the love of Christ.

A disciple will go and make more disciples.

In standing up for the persecuted, in raising a flag for the sex-trafficked, in seeking justice for orphans, in lobbying the government for biblical legislation, we must not lose sight of the original call for all believers–Go and make disciples.

That may mean some of us land in Washington, some of us land in Africa and some land at a cake auction raising money to fill a camp with the precious souls of potential disciples–children.

It will ALWAYS mean that we do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  (Eph. 4:29)

We’ll respect life–even of men who practice evil.

We’ll forgive–because Christ forgave His murderers.  (Luke 23:34)

We’ll respect authority–even of a president whose political party we may not align ourselves with.

We’ll not waste time name-calling and nit-picking.

We’ll just go–wherever we are called–and make disciples.

And maybe along the way, it will be alright if we have a decadent slice of cake because God Himself instructed us to make the most of EVERY opportunity.

There may come a day when those of us in North America will no longer have the freedom to host a cake auction for a Christian cause.

While we can.  We will.

And in so doing, we’ll honor the sacrifice those 21 made.  We’ll honor the sacrifice of the thousands martyred each year.  Because if we’re making disciples, we’re seeking the very thing for which they gave their lives.

(If you’re interested in learning more ways to get involved, click here.)

 

 

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