Words cannot describe the atrocities currently happening in certain places around the world, with regards to the brethren. It’s almost surreal. It’s so shocking, one wonders sometimes if it’s actually true… but it is.
As I type this, I lay safely in my bed, devoid of the horrors being afflicted on brethren around the world. For whatever reason, I am safe… and they are not. For whatever reason, my wife and children are safe… theirs are not.
The symbol pictured above – “N”, or ن , is the first letter of the Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani” or Nazarene… The very letter has been infamously turned into a symbol of support in social media.
At Bible study this week, my pastor’s wife made a profound observation. (They are currently in the midst of preparing for their oldest son to go away, for the first time, to college in a few days.) She had shared with the group that earlier in the day she was thinking about, lamenting, and praying for the brethren in Northern Iraq. At the same time, she was also comparing the stresses she was experiencing in getting her son ready to leave for college, with the “Nasrani” plight in Iraq. The comparison made her feel ridiculous for getting stressed over her situation in comparison to theirs. It certainly makes sense to have such conviction. There really is no comparison. But, she then shared that it had occurred to her as well that preparing her for her son’s departure and dealing with the stresses which come with it, was indeed warranted.
Because, she was called by God to be readying her son for college. She was not called by God to experience the persecution in Northern Iraq first hand. She has a point, and I had never looked at it that way.
There is an interesting scene at the end of John’s Gospel. Peter expresses an almost nosey curiosity to Jesus, regarding the destiny of John. The inquiry comes after Jesus had just spelled out to Peter his destiny:
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to Him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this He said to him, “Follow me.””
Peter’s immediate reaction was not about what he was specifically called to do or experience, but he was now focused on another’s calling, in an almost judging tone. Jesus’ response to Peter is typical of how God (and let us be reminded that Jesus is God) usually responds when interrogated. He doesn’t respond to interrogation. However, He usually reminds the interrogator to reverence Him. Such is exactly how Jesus responded to Peter:
“Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
There is another interesting response given by God to the martyrs in heaven, as they plead for the avenging of their blood:
“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 witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”
They were told to “rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”
Do you see the similarity between Jesus’ response to Peter and God’s response to the slain saints? In both cases, God reminds them of His sovereignty, and then He either commands to follow Him, or to wait on Him.
Of course, we are to pray for each other and to carry each other’s burdens. Such is part of the sanctification process:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
However, we are first and foremost to always be fully aware of our personal callings by God. Such was the point of my pastor’s wife.
“Jesus said to him, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?””
We (brethren) should consider caution when we start to compare our callings with each other. When we do, we then start to evaluate the will of God… and such is dangerous ground.
The writer of Hebrews offers the proper response when contemplating the plight of the brethren throughout history.
Look to Christ…
Hebrews 11:35 – 12:2
“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Godspeed, to the Nasrani!
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