Terrorism, Love & Lent

February 18, 2015

At first glance, terrorism, love and lent seems distantly related.  Let’s be honest, they don’t seem related at all.  But Sunday’s news of 21 Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS brought these three things together for me.

First I wondered about their final moments.  Did Jesus give peace to those men in a moment that humanly could only hold terror? I choose to believe so for two reasons.  First, I’m an optimist.  I pretty much always think things are going to be fine. Second (and this reason is much more valid), in writing the book of Acts, Luke tells us as Stephen was about to be stoned, he looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus saw what was happening to his child, and gave Stephen a glimpse into the reality of His glory, a glimpse I am certain overwhelmed the fear and terror Stephen surely felt.

Once assured of God’s peace to those men, I began to think about how to frame this in my life.  My first inclination is always to bury my head in the sand because, 1) it helps me remain an optimist, 2) I don’t know these men, 3) it happened far away from my home, and 4) except for the blood rushing to my head, it’s easier to sleep with my head in the sand.

And yet, I can’t do that.

I may not know these men, and it may have happened far away, but I cannot deny the common bond I have with them. I, too, am one of the “people of the cross.” The fact that we have not met does not diminish our kinship in Christ.

The fact that it happened at all does not diminish the reality that Christ died for every member of ISIS.  He died to bring freedom to every terrorist, every perpetrator, every…single…person…ever.

So, what do I do? What do we do? (We’re in this together, people of the cross.)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent which is a 40-day journey leading up to Easter. Many Christians have historically observed Lent as a period of fasting and penitence.

I did not grow up observing Lent.  I was in my 30’s before I attended an Ash Wednesday service or thought about “giving up” something for Lent.

Since then, I’ve observed Lent in different ways.  Sometimes I’ve given up something. Some years, I’ve “take on” something like a specified prayer time, or regular scripture reading.  Some years, I’ve done nothing specific.  Most of my seasons of giving up or taking on something were done with the idea of helping me better follow Christ — an emphasis on Christ, but with an eye turned toward me.

This year seems different.   While I hope always to strive to be a better follower of Christ, this year I feel a need to not concern  myself with, well, myself. I’d like to take my head out of the sand and, in some way, mobilize God’s kingdom.

Those are good, strong words.  But honestly, I feel afraid, unsure and small.

Can I put myself in a position for Jesus to lessen my fear, increase my courage in Him, and maybe let me play a small part in growing His kingdom?  Can I put myself in a better position for the Holy Spirit to grow a love in me reflecting God, my Father, and his love for the unlovable?

That is my hope.

A friend recently shared a link on Facebook to the Adopt A Terrorist For Prayer website. Such a profound idea! Looking around the site I found a gallery of FBI and State Department identified terrorists and terrorism sponsors. (Seriously, as I looked through the pictures and names, I felt more heart-pounding fear than courage !)

 

The site also has a great section on very specific ways to pray for those who terrify us.

Believing Jesus when he said, “Perfect love casts out fear,” I choose to pray specifically for one of those who persecute the “people of the cross”.

Even if you don’t choose to Adopt a Terrorist For Prayer through that site, I hope you’ll look at the site and then consider praying for those who are persecuting others through terrorism, the sex-trade, abuse or any other form of manipulation.

The brutality shown by ISIS and others can easily breed fear, hate, anger.  But we cannot allow it to breed complacency.

I don’t need to fear — I have the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling me even if I face death.

I don’t want to hate — I want to model Christ by loving those who hate.

I don’t want to be angry without doing something to make the situation and the kingdom of God better.

Stephen set the example by praying for those about to murder him.  His witness played a role in the conversion of Paul, who, before his conversion was nothing if not a terrorist. (I am not using that term lightly.)

I’ve often heard it’s impossible to hate someone you pray for.  I hope that’s true about fear, too.  I’m on a 40-day journey to find out.

Will you join me?

 

 

 

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11 Comments

  • Caitlyn B

    What a great blog post! I often stick my head in the sand on these issues as well and blame it on being optimistic, but I know that is not the best response. Thanks for the reminder!

    February 18, 2015 at 9:42 am Reply
    • Danita

      Gee, Caitlyn, I wonder where you learned that behavior? I believe you saw it modeled more than I’d like to admit. But it’s a new day, right?

      February 18, 2015 at 10:10 am Reply
  • Dawn Russell

    Danita, I needed this today more than you can know. Thank you for your words. Thank you for your obedience in writing them. I have been blessed!

    February 18, 2015 at 10:03 am Reply
    • Danita

      Dawn, thank you! Your words encourage me to keep sharing from my heart. I hope your day is blessed.

      February 18, 2015 at 10:08 am Reply
  • Bob

    Thank you.

    February 18, 2015 at 11:37 am Reply
  • Amanda H

    I, too, often stick my head in the sand. Because when I think about the evil in our world I feel so overwhelmed. I recently said a very simple prayer for the children who have allegedly been taken captive by ISIS, and then I moved on to think on other things. To dwell on what those children and their parents must be feeling is just heart-wrenching. But yet, I feel I should do something more.

    I asked God this morning to guide me in what sacrifice I should make for Lent. I think I just found my answer in this blog… guess I’m going to check out the “Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer” website!

    February 18, 2015 at 11:50 am Reply
    • Danita

      I’m humbled, but glad that God used these words to guide you, Amanda. We’ll journey together.

      February 18, 2015 at 2:09 pm Reply
  • Connie

    Thank you for this Danita. I have felt troubled with all that is going on in the world, especially the horrific acts done by ISIS. You are right, though, that’s making it about me at not our Almighty God. I will join you in praying for those who terrify us.

    There was one man who they say cried out to Jesus before he was murdered by ISIS. Maybe he saw a glimpse of what Stephen did.

    Bless you for this blog!!

    February 18, 2015 at 12:56 pm Reply
    • Danita

      I had not heard about the one crying out to Jesus. Praise be to God for his faithfulness always — even unto death. As much as I hope never to face that, I pray I would be faithful — even unto death.

      February 18, 2015 at 2:12 pm Reply
  • Katrina

    Such powerful and inspiring words! So easy to say we are going too love and pray for our enemies, but so hard and scary to do. Thank you Danita for making me sop and think about these people, I will join you on this journey!

    February 18, 2015 at 1:04 pm Reply
    • Danita

      We’re building a prayer army to lift these people to the throne of God! I’m so glad you feel led to join in. We can encourage each other.

      February 18, 2015 at 2:16 pm Reply

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