The news is surreal. It has become all too common to see orange jump suited captives being led to slaughter by evil hidden in black masks. For years Pastor Saeed has been incarcerated for his faith. Around the world Christians are paying dearly in this life to gain an inheritance of faith in the next. The cross still costs. But here in America we don’t feel the pain like our brothers and sisters do.
I’m tempted to hide the reality of the world from my kids. I hide a lot of ugly from them already. I limit their exposure to media, news, commercials. They are 11 and 6. I don’t apologize for guarding their minds and hearts.
Ultimately my goal is that they learn how to guard their own hearts from evil and value what is holy. Yet I don’t want them to wake up from a make believe world unprepared. Knowing what to expose our children to and what to shield them from isn’t easy. I didn’t chose to let them watch the Super Bowl half-time show. It seemed unnecessary to need to explain to them why a girl would sing “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” But I have shown them pictures of me holding a malnourished child in an Eastern European mental institution. If God provides the means I would even take them to stand in that harsh reality. It all feels like a balancing act. One I think each parent has to navigate according to prayerful wisdom and conscience.
This week as I looked at the pictures of those brave men kneeling at the feet of masked killers I had to ask myself, “at what point do we tell our children about the sacrifice our brothers and sisters are making globally?” How can we expect them to understand the sacrifice? Will the truth frighten them?
It’s strange to me that a scene so grizzly could also be so precious. For centuries the cross has resisted our natural attempts at whitewashing. Nevertheless it will always be an invitation to death. We who would follow must lay down our earthly lives and desires. Some saints are asked to do so in the rawest of ways. They make us stand at attention. We have to ask ourselves if we are serving the same gospel.
When we read the list in Hebrews 11 of the faithful and their legacy I think it’s our duty to add the names of modern day martyrs to that list. The world isn’t worthy of them, eternity is.
I want my children to understand eternal things. I want them to know that life is about more than game cube and Nerf guns and barbies. Human hearts are hungry for meaning and valor. And while it pains me to tell my children something they can’t truly understand, something that will make them sad, I want so much for them to understand the eternal nature of their relationship with Jesus. I want them to know he’s called them to something far greater than comfort.
I won’t tell my children that the death of the 21 Egyptian Christians is a travesty of justice. I won’t compare their deaths to a Muslim’s or say it’s unfair because of the lack of political outrage. Because they deserve more honor than that. They deserve to be recognized for understanding that faith is eternal and worth infinitely more than what this world has to offer. I don’t want my children to compare the death of these saints with an Islamic jihadist or see it in light of politics. I want them to hold their deaths up to the standard of scripture and hear what Jesus has to say about them.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
If we are careful to study God’s word we can see the warning of what’s to come in this life. I wonder at our shock. Not our sorrow, but our shock. How have we forgotten that Jesus calls it an honor to die for the gospel and every one of his followers should be prepared to lay down their lives? I wonder if we understand that what’s happening globally isn’t truly political, it is the birth pangs of redemption.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t speak up for freedom, protect the innocent, and stand for life. That is something we should value for all mankind. We should work toward equality and liberty. But we must also recognize the nature of the fight. We have to know evil doesn’t fight by the rules and the battle reaches beyond what our eyes can see or our minds understand.
As hard as it is I will tell my children about the faith of these men, their brothers, because I want them to learn to value what God values. I want them to learn to stand in honor of what’s honorable. And through it all I want them to learn to pray that the blood of the martyrs will sow the seeds of the gospel, even among their captors. I want my kids to learn to live with eternal perspective and values.
Of course it’s easy for me to pay respect to these brothers and sisters from a comfortable armchair in a very safe town on the other side of the ocean. But I think it’s important in light of these violent days to practice our faith muscles. We don’t want to be caught off guard and unprepared. And ultimately we have a job to do. In America we may not be asked to die for the gospel but it’s our responsibility to pray for those who are.