The other day, Kyle and I had a free night at home. After dinner, we cozied up on the couch to watch another episode of Criminal Minds (finally on Netflix!). He browsed his Twitter feed and I caught up on Instagram. Someone I follow had posted an update on the situation with ISIL in Iraq with a call to prayer for those being persecuted.
I was aware of how horrific the situation was over there.
I was aware people who share the same faith as me were being beheaded and watching their children murdered for the same belief in God I have. I was aware these Christians were being forced to choose between life and death for the same religion I so robotically attend church for and work in and talk about.
While my Facebook feed was full of petty “Christian” debates over denominational differences, the latest mega-church pastor slip up, and whether a lights show in church is symptomatic of narcissistic musicians, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ – children of God – were being intensely persecuted.
Are being intensely persecuted.
I’m not one to write about politics or even be the most up-to-date on current events. But for some reason, this time was more than just another sad news blip. For some reason, I couldn’t get it out of my mind this time.
I tried to keep scrolling through the Instagram posts of artsy lattes and gorgeous sunsets and the latest selfie, but couldn’t shake the growing weight I felt in my chest.
Finally, I looked at Kyle, told him what I had read, and asked him if we could stop and pray.
Before I started, I simply sat on my comfy couch quietly, heart heavy, head tilted towards my ceiling. For some reason, the words of this prayer felt like they were more somber – to be taken more seriously, and with more caution almost, than my usual prayer of repetitive requests and admonitions.
I began praying for the supernatural strength of my fellow brothers and sisters. I asked God to give them boldness to answer proudly for His Name – to deeply know in their hearts that what Paul said, “to live is Christ, to die is gain,” is truly true. I pleaded that they would intimately feel that “precious in the sight of the Lord are the death of His saints,” and that He would be waiting to welcome them with tears of joy and open arms.
We prayed for the other non-Christian minority groups who were being threatened; that they would also come to know Jesus as Savior.
I prayed that ultimately – no matter what the outcome – glory would be brought to Jesus.
Then we prayed for those in ISIL.
We asked God for the impossible.
We asked that through these killings, through these martyrs, through this horrific act of depraved humanity, that even the terrorists would be pointed to Jesus, drawn in by His holy Spirit, and be saved by His grace. We asked for the same miracle for their souls that Jesus performed in Saul on the road to Tarsus.
Then, somewhat unexpectedly, I began to pray for forgiveness…and I then understood the real crisis.
I wasn’t asking forgiveness for the final sins of those who were being killed.
I wasn’t asking forgiveness for ISIL members to be forgiven for their murders anymore.
I was asking that God would forgive us for not caring.
I was asking forgiveness for our nation for our apathy.
I was asking forgiveness for our world for standing on the sidelines simply observing and muttering how horrible it all was.
I was asking forgiveness for our churches for not caring enough to even make mention of our brothers and sisters who are paying the ultimate price for Jesus, whom we worship here so freely.
And, as the tears began to stream down my face and my throat started to tighten…
…I was asking God to forgive me.
Forgive me for taking this long to truly care.
Forgive me for doing nothing.
Forgive me for not caring enough to even learn more about it.
Forgive me for saying nothing – failing to challenge those around me to intercede.
Forgive me for carrying on with my carefree life without so much as stopping to pray for these heroes of the faith or the souls of their enemies.
Forgive me for worrying in vain over my minuscule problems.
Forgive me for taking for granted how amazing it is to be part of the universal Church of Jesus Christ without stopping to give back to the rest of those who make it up.
Forgive me for not caring.
There is a hashtag being used: #WeAreN. It’s being used to show support for our fellow Christians being persecuted by ISIL (read more about it in this article).
The terrorists were marking homes with the Arabic letter ن, or “n”, identifying the residents as “Nazarene” or Christian. Some have changed their social media profile pictures to a picture of this symbol, hoping to stand in support of our brothers and sisters in Iraq.
The Church of England tweeted:
We are changing our picture to stand with those showing solidarity for those Christians being persecuted in Mosul #WeAreN
I’m planning to change my pictures for a time as well. Some have remarked that doing so or using the hashtag simply makes people feel as if they are doing something to help when they are really doing nothing at all.
However, I believe that prayer is powerful; even if I can’t do anything besides praying, prayer for all those involved is no small aid.
If using this hashtag or changing my profile picture serves even to remind others to join me in prayer, then I’ll proudly do so.
I also understand that there are political undertones to the persecution happening in Iraq, but regardless of why Christians and other people are being unjustly killed, it is wrong, it is a tragedy, and it is deserving of our attention and prayer.