04/29/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – When we read about persecution in the news, it’s easy to lose the human impact amidst the death tolls and other statistics.
However, behind each incident are real people. Those who are killed or injured leave behind a ripple effect of grief within their families and communities. Yet, we can cling to hope beyond the grave!
With the promise of eternity with Christ, we can find peace in the fact that those who are martyred for their faith are now with Him. As the grief slowly fades, their legacy of faith against all odds shines through.
So often when we get reports of persecution or you read reports of persecution out in the news, it kind of just starts with the bare facts and the who, the what, the where, standard journalism stuff. And that’s a shame, because it misses the immense tragedy and the immense pain that comes from these attacks or these murders. Think about it. Each long imprisonment, each murder, there is a massive ring of grief and pain that radiates out into the community and among the loved ones.
So what I want to give you a real world example of this. So back in 2015 in Pakistan, there was a series of church bombings, and any number of them had been attacked. And if you would read the attacks, you’d be like, oh, here’s how many were killed and here’s how many were wounded. The government’s still not stepping up and protecting the Christians and Islam is added again. And that was kind of the generic story.
And so in one of these attacks, this was in March, this was Saint John’s Church in Youhanabad, a suicide bomber detonates a bomb, kills 17 and wounds 70 or 80. It just so happens that one of our staffers was very close nearby, and he runs over to the church. He hears a massive explosion and he runs to the church. There’s any number of pictures that I’ve been exposed to through ministry to the persecuted that are just kind of with me for the duration, and they’re just too painful. And this is one of them.
So he comes upon the scene with a mother and her living son, and she is cradling her dying son. He’s in her lap. You see his face. His lower extremities are gone and life from his face is fading quickly. And the mother’s face is just contorted with shock and with grief, and she’s looking up and crying to heaven and the tears are flowing down. Her living son next to her is saying, but he’s looking left. Oh my gosh, brutal. Then it’s like I said, but each attack. That was just one death, and you see that massive ring, ripple flowing out.
And yet that’s not even the end of the story because there’s also what we see so often are these amazing stories of courage and sacrifice and love. And we find that in this story too, because it turns out that in this series of bombings, the churches knew they were in great danger. And yet believers were still getting together and meeting. And so in Saint John’s Church, two young men had a volunteered to guard the church, and they would wait at the gate and try to keep out any suicide bombers.
And in that church attack, they saw the suicide bomber coming. One of them slammed the iron gate shut, and the other one jumped outside and grabbed the suicide bomber and pinned his arms, but the suicide bomber detonated his bomb. Killed himself. He killed those two men and he killed 17 people in church and wounded 70 or 80. But if he had gotten inside the death toll would have been in the hundreds. Massive, massive death toll. And I may be strange, but I am often haunted by the suicide bombers, because they think they’re martyrs. They’ve been told that. And in Islam, this is the sad thing in Islam, the only sure way you can know you’re going to heaven is to die as a martyr in jihad, in the attack.
And so what happens to these guys? They wake up in eternity and what do they realize? All of a sudden the truth is known, and they have been completely deceived and they have been captured. Everything they knew was a lie and they’ve been captured by Satan and they’re captured for eternity. And on top of that, they are a murderer, and they’ve murdered tons of innocents. And that’s a haunting thing.
But in spite of that, he’s not the martyr. The suicide bomber is not the martyr. The real martyrs are the two young men. That’s Akash and Sikundar. We spoke with Akash’s mother after the attack, and she expressed a couple of things to us. One of them was, of course, the great grief she had at missing him. He was gone. But here was the other. This was the major note of the conversation and it was just immense pride because he had sacrificed himself. He was a true martyr. He had sacrificed himself, and his act of sacrifice had saved hundreds of people. She knew that he was standing in heaven at the Lord’s throne and wearing the crown of the martyr.
In Revelation six we see this scene played out. You see it. It’s all the martyrs are standing before God and they’re crying out to God. They’re crying out for justice. They’re saying, “How long, oh Lord? What’s it going to take?” And the Lord comforts them, and he says, “It’s going to be just a bit longer. Hold on.” And he gives them a white robe and he gives them a crown, and he comforts them. And I think if that was the end of the story, that might be enough because again, he does comfort them, and he’s saying justice will be served. But it’s not the end of the story.
See, because the end of the story is this, is that there is a hidden story, behind everything you see, behind everything you’re living. For thousands of years the hidden story has a hero. That hero is going to stand up. He’s going to stand up at the end, and he’s going to save the day, and he’s going to defeat evil, and he’s going to provide justice for all the evil in the world. He’s going to swallow up death. Then there’s going to be one final thing. The martyr is going to hear this and you’re going to hear this. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness.”