My heart is broken for people I’ve never met. It’s broken for people so unlike me that a love for Jesus may be the only thing connecting us.
My heart is breaking for those persecuted and martyred for their faith around this world.
Yes, I heard the news about the 21 men killed for proclaiming the name of Jesus at the hands of ISIS, but for some reason I allowed myself to stay disconnected. To stay disconnected from the truth of their story.
Until this past Sunday when we recited the following prayer together as a congregation.
God of us all,
You love us so passionately that You sent Your Son to help us experience the fullness of divine love. And while we love You, we are not often asked to risk our lives because of our faith.
This is not true for many of our sisters and brothers in Christ. Our hearts break as we see more of them suffering and dying simply because they are living as disciples of Jesus.
We pray for their safety and sanctuary. We pray that You will give them grace in suffering. We are humbled by the witness of these martyred for their faith. We pray for their persecutors, and that acts of violence and persecution will cease.
Help us to grow in our commitment to live as Jesus’ disciples. Remind us that we are the One Body of Christ: when one member suffers, all suffer. Stir us to pray unceasingly. And empower us to speak boldly.
We pray all of this in the name of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
As I read and recite these words I become overwhelmed with the power of the Holy Spirit and I’m reminded of how comfortable my western, Bible-belt Christianity really is. I say that I love Jesus, I say that I want to be His disciple, but am I brave enough to die for Him? I want to believe that I am, but I’m afraid that I’m really not. If I’m truthful with myself, I am probably more like Peter than I care to admit.
In Mark 14:27 Jesus says, “ You will all fall away, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”
In the following verses Peter responds by saying, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “I tell you the truth Jesus answered, “today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” Peter answers saying, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
We later see, starting verse 66, that Peter does in fact disown Jesus three times. He breaks under pressure and begins selfishly looking out for his own safety rather than bringing glory to His Lord.
So I bring up the question again, are we brave enough to give our lives, or are we just like Peter?
I hope that you will join me in praying the prayer above for people around this world martyred for their faith. I pray that God would break your heart like He’s breaking mine. Pray for the families of those killed for their faith. Oh how I long to hug the children who have lost a parent, to cry with the women who have lost their husbands. Let’s pray that their faith stays strong as the mourn the loss of someone they dearly love.
As we approach Easter, and are reminded of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for our sins, my prayer is that, as we join together and pray unceasingly for the persecuted, that God will grow our faith and make us strong in His name.
As the prayer above says, let’s speak boldly for our Lord. I’m seeking bravery to do just that.
Additional resources to learn more about the 21:
The Wake-Up Call that is ISIS: Who in the Church is Answering?
Christians Mourn their Relatives Beheaded by ISIS