“21”

Why does your memory not fade when you want it to? When I need to remember something my mind freezes up, and the names or facts escape me, but when I want to forget an incident or an image my mind works like a steel trap and the memory haunts me like a bad dream.

To be frank, in many ways I wish I could go back in time to a day when news—especially bad news—did not arrive on my doorstep with such sudden urgency. I realize the good old days in reality had the dark tinge of evil just as our day, but at least the horrors of this world did not confront you in such vivid colors burning their way into your psyche.

Can you imagine a day when the pony express rider brought the news from afar on the back of a breathless horse that scampered across the desert? Today news arrives practically instantaneously on flat screens big and small that hold court in the family room or in the palm of your hand. Sadly, much of the news these days especially out of the Middle East and Europe chills the soul.

A few days ago an image of a long line of men dressed in orange walking along the seashore at sunset caught my attention. The grandeur of the stunning scene turned dark when I recognized another line of masked and hooded men dressed all in black carrying long knives escorted these men. A black flag with Arabic symbols waved in the background and instinctively, which had to have been the intent, I realized I had inadvertently stumbled into another tragic drama staged by ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Quickly averting my eyes to the text of the news release, I read in horror how the men clad in orange in reality were family to me—these twenty-one men being lead to their slaughter claimed my Lord Jesus as their own which by the power of the His Spirit living within our hearts makes us brothers.
Yes, in an act of cruel barbarism, these ISIS assassins murdered “21” Coptic Christians from Egypt not for crimes they had committed, nor for plots orchestrated in dark rooms, but for bearing the name of Jesus as their Lord and Savior. ISIS targets Christians, even going as far as crucifying many of them—another image I wish I had never seen—and if left unstopped many more Christians will fall at the edges of bloody swords.

So what does one do in response to such unspeakable evil? How does heaven response when its sons and daughters die at the hands of cruel evil men? Sadly, much like the Jews, Christians have often been targets of persecution dating all the way back to the crucifixion of Jesus himself.

Jesus openly warned His devoted followers of the dangers and the backlash of an evil world. He knew His followers too would suffer atrocities and brutal acts of hatred. In the Revelation written by the Apostle John in exile on the isle of Patmos, he watched the Lamb of God opening the seals which would unleash His fury upon the evil on the earth he wrote:

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10 ESV)

As so vividly noted, without doubt God hears the cries of His people, and He will settle the score once and for all time, but until that final victory our LORD Jesus commands us to follow His revolutionary path of love and grace. He urges us to “love our enemies” knowing hatred only evokes more hatred. The edge of the sword will not advance His kingdom but rather unconquerable charity. I too cry out for God to stop the senseless violence, while pleading for my heart to be filled with His unspeakable love.

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