I sit here in our temporary apartment listening to the wind usher in waves from the expanse of the sea. The ocean reminds me how vast the world really is. I can’t shake Ann Voskamp’s words about the place on the other side – northern Africa – “the place where the heart of God bleeds up through the earth” she says. But all too often, the blood of men, women and children made in the image of God soaks down into the soil of that continent. We don’t hear much about them over here, unless we make special effort, unless our ears are tuned to hear their cries…
The chief Hebrew term (apparently there are many) behind the word mercy is “hesed,” which is integrally tied to God’s covenant love. Mercy and love are intertwined because mercy is the tangible outworking of his love.
Do our fears outweigh our call to mercy?
I keep asking myself this question as I read about our elected officials barring Syrian refugees and Christians blasting the internet with sentiments that our borders should be closed. Perhaps they have forgotten, as my friend Lindsay so eloquently puts it, that our Savior became a Middle-Eastern refugee when his earthly parents fled to Egypt, because Herod was slaughtering infants in his homeland?
Are our fears heavier on our hearts than extending the lovingkindness of our God to others? Is maintaining our Western facade of safety more valuable than extending the tangible love and compassion of our Savior to those who don’t know it or him?
“Mercy is the quality in God that directs him to forge a relationship with people who absolutely do not deserve to be in relationship with him. Mercy is manifested in God’s activity on behalf of his people to free them from slavery; it is neither theory nor principle.” – BibleStudyTools.com
That’s us Church! From nothing to something, from rejected to accepted, from unloved to Beloved, from orphans to adopted, from slaves to free.
I walked past a muted television this morning. President Obama was standing at a podium and the text scrolling across the screen made mention of his “anti-ISIS efforts.” I don’t know much about military power or ground troops, but I do know we aren’t battling only against flesh and blood. I know we are fighting against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Friends, call me crazy, but this is good news BECAUSE we know the One who sits on the throne FAR ABOVE every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Everything is under the feet of Jesus, Ephesians 1 says so. Jesus, who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. The Father, who spoke the wind and waves into being.
Do you see that prayer is not a last resort or second-rate battleground?! Prayer is not for those who are too far away to do SomeThing, prayer is the thing.
We have the power to push back darkness. Prayer is more powerful than dropping a bomb or drawing a gun – because it sets people free.
How do we mirror the God who saved us to those who persecute us? We pray for them. We refuse to allow them to divide us. We get on our knees and we go to war. We bury our heads in our Bibles and we read over and over and over of His great love for the lost and the hurting and the foreigner.
I fear oversimplifying this subject. I’ve never lived in a city where persecution of this magnitude has taken place. I don’t know anyone who has been killed by ISIS. I am not an expert on these matters. I only read about them on the internet. What I know is this: Christ died for me while I was still his enemy.
And I know the only superpower strong enough to disarm those who persecute us is the One who came to die for them. Lord, help us not forget, you died for them too.
These terrorists are enemies of God. They inflict terror and pain and unimaginable horror. BUT there is no sin bigger than the blood Jesus spilled on the cross. And according to scripture, they are no more his enemy than I was. Thank God his lovingkindness extends all the way to sinners, murderers, adulterers and liers.
It’s oh-so-easy to forget, when we read his Holy Spirit-inspired words of rejoicing in suffering, not loosing heart, freedom, preaching and praying – that the man who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else was a former terrorist. We all know this right? Saul of Tarsus, Enemy of God. Killer of Christians.
Who is the Saul of ISIS?
What kind of ushering in of the gospel would come from Saul of ISIS transforming to Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ?! Oh Church, may we long to see it. May we be praying for these men who are covered in scales of unbelievable evil to regain sight for their Maker.
Members of ISIS make good-bye videos for their families prior to leaving to join the terrorist group. They explain their desires for their funeral, belongings, family members, etc. They say goodbye. Forever. They are no longer living for things of this world. They are dead men walking.
Sound familiar? Oh right, our beloved Paul was a redeemed zealot.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
– Galatians 2:20
and again in Acts 20:22 – 24:
“And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”
My Facebook feed begs the question, What are we zealous for Christians? Are we willing to lay down our lives for what we believe? Most of us won’t have to, but many of us aren’t even willing to get uncomfortable for it.
Are we willing to open our arms to the foreigner and the refugee? Are we willing to extend the same grace and mercy and love that has been extended to us? Are we willing to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and captive?
Does their terror warrant justice? Absolutely. Does God in his great mercy have the power to bestow salvation instead? All citizens of Heaven sing the praises of it.
May we be as dedicated to flooding the world with the love and grace and mercy of Jesus as the Islamic State is to flooding it with bullets and bomb shrapnel. They are zealous for their cause; are we zealous for ours?