The One Thing I Wish Jesus Never Said to Us | Jack Gilbert
| Jack Gilbert
The red letters in the New Testament so often perplex me.
“Do not worry about anything”, or “You cannot serve both God and money”, or “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away”, or even that “Blessed are the persecuted”.
Though, there has always been one thing that I wish Jesus never said.
His greatest challenge.
It’s a challenge that I have only realised since I started working at Open Doors, a ministry that serves the persecuted church. For the past five years, I have met, spoken with or heard the worst stories of persecution you will EVER hear.
In 2014, I travelled to Egypt, during a pivotal moment in the countries tumultuous history. But what shocked me most was how the Coptic Christian minority was treated during this time.
I heard how a young Christian girl was kidnapped and killed by her own brother, and how the police refused to investigate the murder.
I heard of a Muslim man, who accepted Christ in a medical outreach, and when he came home, his brother killed him.
I met a former Muslim, now Christian, who when he accepted Christ had 12 members of his family wanting to kill him.
In 2013, over 60 churches were burnt down by riots.
How would you react? If you were persecuted like that, what would you do? If your church was one of the 60 churches burnt down in 2013, how would you respond?
In 2013, over 60 churches were burnt by Muslims. Here a Christian stood down in the ash of his church and wrote “God is Love”.
This is how the church in Egypt responded.
The Coptic Church in Egypt released an announcement saying:
“We forgive the men who did this. We love our enemies.”
Not long after I left Egypt, 21 Egyptian Christians were beheaded on a beach in Libya by a group affiliated with ISIS. They were killed because they followed Christ.
But immediately after this happened, a pastor in Egypt said this.
“From the Egyptian church to ISIS: we love you and have pity on you, and pray that God may open your eyes so that you can see the true light in Jesus Christ. We’re not intimidated by your threats. Death is a vanquished enemy for us, vanquished by the power of The Christ, in his resurrection from the dead. We are not armed and we’re not militant but our prayers are stronger than all your weapons.”
Even more recently, we saw the bombing of two churches on Palm Sunday this year, killing 49 people and IS storm a bus and kill 29 Christians.
I will never forget the words of the widow of the security guard who prevented the bomber from entering into the church.
“I forgive my husband’s killer.”
What kind of faith is this?
What kind of love is this?
So, what is the greatest challenge?
I believe it’s found in Matthew 5:
“love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
I believe that the greatest challenge that Christ put to us is to love and pray for those who persecute.
After hearing all the stories about Egypt and the persecutors of Christians. How do you feel towards persecutors? Heck, what about Muslims? Is it frustration, anger, even hate. You will find that is the response of most people.
But as Christians, Christ calls us to love, pray and forgive our enemies.
People should never be the enemy. We should offer forgiveness rather than revenge. We follow a God of forgiveness.
That for me, and for so many of us, is unbelievable difficult, but unbelievably life changing.
If you first pray for the persecutors, forgive, love and your enemies, I promise you that your heart will be in the right place, by the time you get around to praying for the near 215 million persecuted Christians in world.
Before you ever spend a moment to pray for the persecuted family. Will you love and pray for those who persecute?
Want to pray, sign up here.
To Learn more about open doors, check out their website: https://www.opendoors.org.au/