Our collective conscience has been viciously assaulted and violently awoken in the last couple of weeks as news of the atrocities committed in Iraq by IS (Islamic State) filters through our various screens. The devastation and suffering is, quite simply, unfathomable. I don’t know about you but I struggle to even imagine what it would be like to be exiled from my home and country under the threat of death, simply for following Jesus. However, this is now reality for thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters from Iraq.
So, what can we do? No, what should we do?
Of course, and this is far from trite Christian-speak, we must pray. I have heard and read pleas for God to pour out his wrath upon IS; and certainly one day God will pour out his justice upon sin and evil (2 Thess. 1:5-12), but in this time of God’s patience (2 Pet. 3:15), the scandalous message of the gospel is that God’s wrath was poured out upon Jesus in our stead (Rom. 5:9; 8:3).
So, my prayer for the IS persecutors is the same as for all other people who do not know Jesus; that they would, similar to the Apostle Paul, encounter the risen Christ, repent and believe (Acts 9:1-19). Refer to Open Doors (www.opendoors.org.au), a wonderful organisation that advocates for the persecuted church, for further prayer points.
We must give. Open Doors, along with Samaritans Purse (http://www.samaritanspurse.com.au), are reputable organisations involved in meeting the needs of the Iraqi Christians on the ground, and so worthy of investing Jesus’ money with, to meet the needs of His people.
We must not lose hope. It is tempting to despair in the face of evil and loss. Yet we must remind ourselves of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:10-11: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…” Jesus redefines what it means to be “blessed” and in so doing, gives us indestructible hope. If, when we suffer for Him, we are actually being blessed by Him, then there is nothing and no-one that can take away our hope in Him.
This is the upside-down nature of the kingdom of God; that we give to receive, serve to reign, yield to conquer and ultimately, lose our lives in order to truly find them. So, this week, please take some time to pray, to give and to renew your hope, knowing that our brothers and sisters in Iraq may rejoice, for they are blessed, and great is their reward in heaven.