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Thursday, June 16, 2016

A story you won't hear on the news

I don't think many American Christians have heard this news since it hasn't been reported in the secular press. I haven't seen it on Fox News either so I'm not sure how many people actually know about it. I got it from a missionary doctor who served in the region. Please read through the story and pray. God knows, we need it in our country....

A brother who was a deacon in his church was horribly martyred for the faith by radical Middle Eastern terrorists just outside of Jerusalem. You know all about the terrorists' religion, but I won't name it here since some people might get upset. In his final moments the deacon prayed for the terrorists who were brutally stoning him. It was horrible. All he did was kneel there and pray while they kept throwing rocks. You have to wonder, what would have happened if he or someone nearby had had a gun.

What's really outrageous though is that the head of the terrorist cell and some of his "soldiers" freely crossed over the Southern Syrian border so he could kill more people! Why the border was open is anybody's guess, but after some close investigation it was found he had acquired papers and funds from radicalized religious leaders that would have gotten him through anyway. (Sound familiar?)

Unbelievably, when they got to the capital (Damascus) a fundamentalist Christian took Jesus' words literally, "Love your enemy" and brought the terrorist leader into his home. You can just imagine what happened next...

I just can't believe how foolish some Christians are in this age of terrorism. Don't you think that we should at least check our Bibles to make sure we know how to react to these kinds of threats and not just rip texts out of the Bible to fit our crazy ideas?

I mean, what if these guys, Stephen and Ananias, had treated the terrorist Saul the way Christians in America treat Muslims?

Since this article was originally published there's been some question about what it means. Read through it again slowly and consider the possibility that the "news story" isn't new. It may also help to know that the "missionary doctor" was named Luke...

In fact, the story is 2,000 years old. It's taken directly from the book of Acts (written by Luke) and is an account of early events in the life of the apostle Paul. The deacon who was murdered was Stephen (Acts 6:5; Acts 7:58-60). The man who took the Apostle Paul in was Ananias (Acts 9:10-14). Of course by the time Ananias accepted him into his home Saul had been confronted already on the road to Damascus by Christ Jesus (Acts 9:1-9), but if you go back and read the original account you'll see the fear Ananias expressed when he first heard the terrorist Saul was coming for a visit. And yet, God had a plan...

So, why recount this short story in this way? Because we forget that there's nothing new under the sun. Think about the current tenor of public discussion today when it comes to foreigners and terrorists. A large segment of the United States (and within Christian churches) demand that we keep the Muslims away - don't let them in, build the wall, keep America Christian. Except that's not biblical. In fact, it's in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches about dealing with foreigners and our enemies. 

Jesus said, 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
Should we think that Jesus didn't really mean that we should love our enemies? Or maybe Jesus just didn't understand about modern-day terrorism? Were the early Christians naive about the threats we would face today? They lived it long ago and knew exactly what they were talking about. The story of Saul is a story of a religious terrorist murdering Christians. The story of Stephen is a man killed by Saul's terrorist cell while Saul stood by saying how right they were to do it. The story of Ananias is the story of a Christian who trusted God enough to let a man he feared into his home despite his associations with terrorism. And what did Ananias learn? He learned that by the grace of God even a terrorist could become an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ! 

Of course, the analogy between today and Saul/Paul is not perfect, but the underlying principles are the same. 

First, we are to love our neighbors, be kind to our enemies, pray for those who hate us, and bless those who curse us. We cannot do that from behind walls. We cannot do that if we only witness to the neighbors we like or who look like us. We cannot do that if we lock the foreigner out of our country. Hate has no place in the heart of a Christian.

Second, we are to preach the gospel to all nations and all men, not just the ones we think are nice (anybody remember Jonah?). The gospel of Jesus Christ is not for the good people. It's for the broken, the sinful, the hateful, and yes even the terrorist. 

What is it we are afraid of? Are we afraid that the message of Christ cannot stand before the lies of Mohammed? Are we afraid that Christ cannot protect His Church? Are we afraid that the Gospel is not enough to change the hearts of the lost? Do we think the conversion of Saul was just a one-off? Are we afraid they might repent and God would show them kindness too? 

Have faith Christians! Stand tall and let the world flood in to your doorsteps and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ! Put away your baskets and let your light shine! 
 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." -- Jesus (Matthew 5:14-16)

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