The world is watching in horror as atrocities continue in Iraq.
Christian homes in Iraq have been marked with 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet “nuhn”, which is the abbreviation for “Nasara” – the Koranic Arabic word for Christian. It is derived from Nazareth, which is the town where the Lord Jesus lived, and the Arabic name for Nazareth is نَّاصِرَة “Nāsirah”. “…and he (Jesus) went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:23)
These Christians are killed if they do not pay an exorbitant amount of money, flee their home, or convert to Islam. The world is watching with horror as Islamic State jihadists in Iraq crucify Christians, behead children, and bury victims alive. When Christians flee ahead of their advance, the terrorists then steal their homes and businesses.
In a move of solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters, many Christians are changing their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures to this symbol.
While a picture can never replace the power of prayer – the symbol can at least serve as a reminder for us to pray for our fellow Christians in the Middle East and throughout the world who are suffering grave injustices because of their faith.
The world continues to be filled with injustice, pain, and heartache – and many today may feel as if they are leaving a trail of tears – tears that go unnoticed and grief that is not comforted. But our Lord sees our tears and comforts our weary hearts (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). He also declares the hope of a future time not marked by the stains of sin or injustice. In that day and in that place, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation. 21:4).
The God who offers freedom from tears in the future is the only One who can fully comfort our tears now. Surely, when God permits trials, He also provides comfort.
Sophie Scholl was a young German woman during the 1940s. She saw the deterioration of her country under the iron rule of the Nazi regime, and she determined to make a difference. She and her brother, with a small group of friends, began to peacefully protest not only the actions but the values that the Nazis had forced upon the nation.
Sophie and others were arrested and executed for speaking out against the evil in their land. Although she wasn’t anxious to die, she saw that the conditions in her country had to be addressed – even if it meant her death.
Sophie’s story raises a critical question for us as well. What would we be willing to die for? Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian, and Ed McCully gave their lives in the jungles of South America because they were committed to spreading the gospel. Elliot revealed the heart that drove such sacrifice when he wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” The apostle Paul put it this way: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Some things really are worth dying for – and in them we gain the reward of the One who declares, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21,23). It is quite powerful to remember those who faithfully bear the cross in this life will wear the crown in the life to come.
Let us continue to pray each day for those that are bearing the cross in Iraq.
Keep on keeping on…