It’s been fascinating to me to watch the evangelical responses to the 21 Coptic Christian martyrs.
There were those who denied that they could be Christians because they formulated the Gospel in a different manner than they did.
There were others, however, who proclaimed them true Christians who died in faith… even knowing that they believed a “false Gospel” by their doctrinal and creedal confessions..
That raises some large questions…
If they were truly saved (and I believe they were) then;
a. Their doctrinal formulation was right and mine is wrong, or;
b. God chose to save them despite their errors, or;
c. God isn’t nearly as concerned about doctrinal formulations as we are.
There was a day when I thought I had it all down.
My faith had been narrowed down to a set of doctrinal propositions.
If you assented to those propositions, then heaven was yours.
If you didn’t, you were going to split hell wide open and I was happy about it.
I was a gatekeeper to the kingdom and quite skilled at separating the sheep from the goats.
I was quite proud of my doctrinal acumen and quite scornful of any perceived lack thereof.
Life was simple, life was good.
Then, I met people who did not affirm my doctrinal propositions who had quite evidently met with Jesus anyway.
I either had to change my doctrinal propositions or change my mind about how one gained access to the throne of grace…or both.
I chose both…which then required me to learn to love people I had formerly consigned to the pit.
It has been difficult and messy.
We love our tribes in Christendom and when you love the other tribes you end up with no tribe of your own.
We curse each other over doctrinal propositions, traditions, leadership, interpretation of Scriptures, sacraments, and a seemingly endless list of sub categories.
We pay lip service to unity in Christ while secretly doubting whether the other tribes (and those in them) know Him at all.
We believe the road is narrow and we’re on it, the broad road is full of other tribes walking into hell with the heathens.
Even when someone offers up the right propositions and participates in the tribal rites properly, we who are convinced of our own right standing before God examine anything we can for possible disqualification.
We can almost always find something.
We so often make the ‘good news’ something like one of those envelopes you get from Publishers Clearing House…”You’ve won!”…if you meet about a hundred qualifications.
Our mantra is that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship….then we try to force people with a relationship into our religion.
Why…do we go out of our way to make heaven so distant for so many?
Why… does it seem that we are more concerned with keeping people out than getting people in?
Charles Bowden wasn’t a believer as far as I know.
Despite this, he may have made one of the best evangelistic films I’ve ever seen.
You can’t play it in your youth group, however…you probably can’t show it in any group.
The film is called “El Sicario Room 164” and for the first hour it is nothing but a hooded, professional cartel killer describing his work in graphic detail…from one of the hotel rooms he did his work in.
It is not for delicate in sensibilities, nor for the faint in heart.
The sicarios killings and torture methods are laid out in all their horror with the pride of a craftsman.
I had to take a break from watching it twice…it was more than I could handle.
The last twenty five minutes or so are devoted to how Jesus came and saved the monster we’d been watching.
The killer drops his calm, calculating, exterior when describing his conversion… he weeps with joy as he describes being born again.
The power of the Gospel strangles the forces of hate as easily and as finally as the sicario had strangled his victims.
The movie ends with that testimony.
If you believe the mans story (and I do) you must conclude that no one is outside the power and grace of God.
That includes cartel killers and radical Muslim ones.
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal…
We really don’t believe that…we believe the weapons of our warfare were not carnal until we developed really powerful carnal weapons.
Questions abound if we’re honest…but we’re not.
I wonder why God didn’t choose to save this man before he dispatched 400 or 500 people to unmarked graves.
I wonder why God didn’t choose to save the man who made the movie… who I still grieve for every day as one grieves for a father unmet.
I wonder if the families of his victims would celebrate his adoption by the Father when he took the father of their family.
I wonder why the thought of bombing radical Islam with the Gospel is not nearly as appealing as blowing them to hell.
I confess that I still think myself and others deserve grace that should be denied to others.
I will comfort myself with Deut 29:29 and proclaim such things as “mystery”.
Today, like every Wednesday, we will remember Saeed Abedini.
We do more than just remember, however…we stand with him by using our social media to advocate for his release.
We ask that you change your Facebook profile picture to his and that you “like” the “Free Saeed” Facebook page and participate in some of the activities that promote his cause.
We ask…that you remember him and his family in prayer…and that you refuse to give up on efforts to secure his release.
From his wife, Naghmeh,
Romans 12: 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Here is my two cents on current events:
RADICAL HATE can only be overcome by RADICAL LOVE. God’s solution to sin was a painful death on the cross while we were still sinners and while we were still His enemies. That’s God’s solution. Radical Love. A love that hangs on the cross and takes all of the insults, abuse and beatings and can still say “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Our president can not solve the problems we are seeing rampant around us. No government or governments in the world can solve it. No money in the world can solve it. No human plans can solve it (no matter how wise they may seem). The United Nations can certainly not solve it. There is only one solution and as Christians we have it to offer to the world!!!
Islam at its best is a religion. A list of does and don’ts. People are tired of religion. The world is thirsty for love. As Christians we have access to the only Love that can change a person within. We have access to the Love that can truly fill the emptiness within.
We might not live in the Middle East, but there are Muslims all around us where we live. Each one is an opportunity to love.