21 Brothers

I’ve grown to despise the 10 o’clock news over my 31 years. As a young girl, it was a mere inconvenience. There were more entertaining shows to watch. I had no use for boring facts and political reports. As a teenager, I became appalled by the stories of “kids just being kids”. It seemed sex, stealing, destruction were all normal expectations of teenagers if you were to believe the news. But I was a teenager and I didn’t want to be labeled. I didn’t want to be thrown in with mix. So I tuned it out because, what could I do? As an adult, I have grown tired of the unnecessary lines in the sand. Talking heads demanding to know whose side we are all on. Conservative or liberal. Christian or open-minded. Feminist or blind. Black or white. I have grown tired of navigating the maze that has been created by all of our lines. And I have grown tired of the manipulating fear tactics, reporters reminding us to be afraid because of climate changes. Be afraid because of diseases. Be afraid because of this, because of that. There has been a rumbling in the world and it has been growing. A violent shaking. At first, it was easy to ignore. Just more fear-mongering. More bait to keep us hooked on their every word. You on the words of the talking heads on your side. Me hooked on my side. But the rumbling has grown. And this past week, when 21 Christians were beheaded for their faith, the rumbling caught up to me. I cannot ignore it. I have read the thoughts of others on the matter. Prayers, political statements, fears, heartaches. And yet, I sit here, a writer, a sister to the slaughtered, feeling completely inadequate to even speak to myself in this moment. Two days ago I was weighed down by my own burdens, heartaches, wounds, worries, shame. I could not shake it. Then, on Sunday, the walls shook and crumbled and all of it came rushing out. And when the flood of self-focused-heartache subsided, I looked up at my parents’ television to see my brothers kneeling at the shore of eternity, their knees sinking into the sand of the earth while their hearts were swept further into the ocean of the glory of Christ. And I wanted to look away. But I cannot. I cannot ignore their cries. Perhaps it was their cries, their shouts that caused the walls of my Jericho to crumble that day. So ISIS, you have my attention. You have slaughtered my brothers. You have warned us, the nation of the cross, no more a physical nation than your own ISIS. We are not contained to a land and you know it. So you warn and we hear you. You have my attention. But I will not give you my fear. I fear The One who is able to destroy the soul and the body (Matthew 10:28). And my fear of Him is also my confidence. I hear the talking heads begging us to live in fear. Promising that you may be waiting outside the doors of our own churches soon. And I admit, my hands tremble at the thought. I am not brave. I have said it before. There is no incredible courage running through my veins. But the courage that ran through the veins of Christ has covered me. And this One who spilled His blood, red courage, crimson love to give life to the dead, He warned us there would be those who would murder us and believe they were honoring God by the act (John 16:2). And here you are. There have been others, but now it is you.  So here is what I will do with your words echoing in my ears, with the image of my family members burned on my eyes…

  • I will remember that as a family of Christ, their deaths affect me. 
  • I will remember that my family in Egypt and Syria and Iraq and China and many other places are experiencing pains I cannot fathom at this point in history.
  • I will remember that Jesus promised persecution for The Church. 
  • I will remember that history proves that persecution only serves to grow the Church, not silence Her.
  • And that a lack of persecution is, in fact, more dangerous than facing death for our faith.
  • I will remember that Christ, who sat down when He had finished His work on the cross, stood to welcome my 21 brothers home. 
  • I will remember that the orange jumpsuits you clothed them in, and sin-stained rags we all cloth ourselves in, were traded in for robes of white. 
  • I will remember that Jesus has already won. 

So my knees may shake from the rumbling, but I will remember that the cause of the rumble is the armies of God, the crumbling of walls, the fall of giants who would mock Christ. Our army may be untrained. They may seem common and weak when compared to your militant ranks. But like David, we know our God is bigger. Like Joshua, we believe that even uncommon tactics that feel like walking in circles, when paired with faith in Christ, can destroy nations. We believe with Daniel, that governments can tell us to fear the consequence of our faith, but our God can shut tight the mouths of lions. We believe with Christ that Sauls can become Pauls. Yes, even you. Even you might come face to face with Christ and be changed. And I will remember that Christ commanded us to pray for our enemies. Yes. Even you.

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