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Friday, August 1, 2014

Killing Christians: Now and Then

As I shared my concerns about Israel, I left out another group who are really suffering, the Christians in Iraq. I do not know what percent of Muslims in other lands are in favor of persecution. I think it a bad idea to paint an entire group, but it does seem like there is some terrible persecution of people taking place. At least one Iraqi woman sad that Muslim's who stand against the persecutions are also being killed.

It is odd to me that in this nation Christians who support traditional marriage or are against abortion can be labelled as terrorists, while people engaged in wholesale slaughter are not even mentioned (or called humanitarians by some US political leaders?!?!)

The story of a man who watched his children murdered, his daughters raped and killed and finally was himself shot brought tears to my eyes. Middle class Christians flippantly ask, "Are you sold out for Jesus?" and then grip and complain about any societal inconvenience. Sometimes we seem to be "whiners for Jesus" equating our challenges with the horrors of real persecution and martyrdom. [while I personally anti-Christian sentiment is on the rise, in many parts of the country, and I have dim view of what is ahead, clearly the scenario above is not taking place around here]

We started back on our Thursday Bible Study today. As I shared we are going to do the Didache (training from Jesus through the twelve for the gentiles). It begins with the two ways. The way of Life is to love God and love our neighbor, or do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. In verse three it spells out what that looks like concretely. You may have heard this somewhere else:

speak well of the ones speaking badly of you, and pray for your enemies, fast for the ones persecuting you; for what merit is there if you love the ones loving you? Do not even gentiles do the same thing? You on the other hand love the ones haring you, and you will not have an enemy

It continues with turning the other cheek, walking two miles, giving extra from the one who takes from you and not asking back what is taken from you. And all of this can be found in Matthew and found in Jesus mouth.

I asked the class why put this first in the instruction manual, if not because it was a church under persecution. Scholars believe the original audience was in the province "Syria," putting it in close proximity to the current persecutions of Christians. I wondered aloud if some of the direct descendents of the original Didache are now in a position to pray and fast and speak well of the enemies who ill treat and torment them?

Do I argue and fight with others or pray and fast for them? (Ashamed to say)
Do I look for what is best in those who treat me worst, or do I point out their flaws and inconsistencies?
Do I have the words of Jesus shaping my heart?

There was one line in the midst of the two verses which answers the questions above: abstain from fleshly and bodily desires. This is not about lust, at least not primarily, it is about our natural reactions to abuse from others. Humans, even Christian humans, want to prevail. The Christian faith does not magically make us faithful. We tend to twist and reshape it to fit our cultural context. A middle class Christian is middle class. We are not shaped by the ancient training manual. However, the ancients were no more inclined than we to abstain from the fleshly and bodily desires. The sinful human heart is no recent invention,

How to become such a man, whose prayer and fasting and goodness to all, especially the cruel enemy who does me harm, is the norm for his behavior? At the heart of it is an embrace of the cross of Jesus. Of that much I am sure. Such an embrace is founded deeply in faith, trust, and, of course, love. I pray for those who lose their life for Jesus today. And I pray for those who kill them. And I wonder what good words I should say to and about them....

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