Not long ago I watched a video online. Not shocking in and of itself, but this one was different. This video was called “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross”. In the video ISIS soldiers beheaded 21 men of the Coptic Christian church, with the promise of more violence to come.
Yes, it started out with me being angry at these men, who cut of the heads of my brothers in Egypt. I’m angry that they are being persecuted for their faith. I’m angry that they follow a faith based in love and grace and they are repaid with a brutal and painful death. I’m angry that this isn’t the first or the last of these attacks. But most of all I’m angry at myself.
I watch the video and see it as a call to war that I am ready to wage, blood for blood. I look at these killers with hate and violence in my own heart and I am wrong.
Yes, these men are responsible for a heinous crime and it’s easier to hate them, but God calls us to love our enemies. It upsets me that my brothers died horribly but they are with our Father now, but the men who killed them are still so deeply lost in a false faith that they believe killing is not only an acceptable thing to do but an action that is to be heralded and rewarded. It’s easy for us to sympathize with the victims, we feel for them, the world feels for them. But what of the victimizers?
Whether it’s the murderers in Islam, the buyers and sellers in sex trafficking, the watchers of porn, the drug dealers, the corrupt bankers and politicians, the hard partying celebrities, the rapists, the thieves, the liars, just pick your niche. God loves them too, God grieves for their lost souls too, and God calls us to carry his word to them too.
We spend more time condemning their actions and looking on them with derision and we forget that they are lost too.
I used to be one of them. I was looked on with disgust many times and I responded with a resounding “Eff you”, if you’re one of God’s people then I don’t need him and I don’t need you. It took years before I finally answered God’s call and part of that was because of the poor representation from his people. I was a liar, a cheat, a drug addict, a violent man, a deviant, but I am also one of God’s beloved children.
Yes, be outraged.
Yes, be saddened.
Yes, be angry.
But always remember that God forgives them and wants them to be in his embrace as much as the victims. He loves Barrabas as much as he loves Peter, Hitler as much as Martin Luther King, Osama bin Laden as much as Kim Walker-Smith.
Brothers and sisters I understand your heart breaking for our Egyptian brethren, but please don’t forget to keep their killers in your prayers as well. I’m just as angry and hurt as you are, and this plea is as much to myself as it is to you.
Never forget that God’s love encompasses all of us. To truly know the heart of the Father we must try every day to love as he does. It will never be easy, and we will always fall short. He doesn’t expect us to always succeed but he does call us to preach to all nations, and that he didn’t come here for the righteous but for the sinners.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.