Today, news broke about the beheading of 21 Christian men in Egypt. It was video taped. Just another day of escalating violence against “the nation of the cross.” It is shocking to most people, but it comes as no surprise to Christians who have read and understood the message of the Bible. Becoming a Christian does not make for a rosy, happily-ever-after life. Au contraire! Our Lord promises us that if we follow Him, we will have to take up our cross, be led to places we do not wish to go, be mocked, scorned, rejected, and maybe even killed. Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are in ever-increasing danger of the latter. And our nation yawns as so many other nations have done in the past.
One of the greatest dangers for Christians living in the West is that we are daily bathed in foolishness. We are lured into caring more about political shenanigans, gas prices, and the latest news about who got eliminated on American Idol then we do about the suffering of those whose lives are being shattered with increasingly violent frequency. But this is not as it should be. The church comprises one world-wide household, and the beheading of even one brother or sister anywhere in the world is a death in OUR family. We should mourn as though our hearts were breaking. Our hearts should be broken.
Yet, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. For, though the sorrow of this world is real, the vindication of God’s people is equally certain. The blood of the saints cries out to God just as the blood of Abel cried out from the ground. In Revelation 6: 9-11 we read:
“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 testimony which they held. And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were was completed.”
These held firm to the testimony of faith to which they had been called, even to the point of death. But, do you see what is remarkable here? Though their voices are crying out, they are told to “rest a little while longer”. They are given white robes. They have run with courage the race set before them and have overcome. Yet, though they may rest, they cry out for justice; not only for themselves, but for those of us who are still running. They (and we) are told that they are not the last who will be killed for their testimony. Perhaps we will never be called to martyrdom as these saints who have gone before us. Perhaps we will. We need to be reminded that those who have been slain before us (including those who lost their lives in yesterday’s brutal attack) are now in the presence of our Father pleading for justice, for vindication, and for those of us who must continue to dwell in this harsh and cruel world.
Can we do any less for our brethren who may be called to add to the number “…who would be killed as they were” completing the fullness of time when all will be set right?
For people who do not live in active danger, but in affluence, comfort, and are provided for with every blessing, what should we do? How far does the guilt I should feel go? Should I feel guilt? Because if I am being honest, the feeling of empathy is something I need to pray for (if it’s needed), whether or not I am praying for people in those situations.
I guess my question is: how is it possible for two people in two different situations (us and them), be blessed by the same God, when it only seem like one of us is being blessed?
I don’t believe guilt is the proper response in any way. Gratitude, perhaps, that we are not facing the same immediate dangers. But, we ought not to be fooled, we face other kinds of dangers resulting from our comfort. One of those dangers is the inability to empathize, so I think we do need to pray for this gift. To answer your question about being blessed: our definition of what it means to be blessed is truncated. For most of us living in affluence, blessedness is often defined in terms of material things, peace, and comfort, and those are blessings. But, if you look at the Sermon on the Mount, you will see blessing being associated with very different conditions from those to which we normally associate it:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
That was a great answer, thanks.