Before the cock crows

8th August, 2014 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Usual Friday morning, familiar routine so far.  This being August, only one event in my diary.  So let’s get going.

However, if I were a resident of the ancient Assyrian town of Qaraqosh. in the Iraqi province of Nineveh, I certainly would be going –  as fast and as far as I could.  As a Christian, particularly as a church leader, I would be fleeing for my life.  Either that or convert to Islam.

This is the main story in this morning’s media.  The Times leads with “Wars of Religion”  with the opening paragraph: “President Obama was poised last night to order airstrikes against jihadists as they forced upto 100,000 Christians and other minority groups to flee.”

Iraq’s Christians have perhaps suffered more than any other group since the Islamic State formerly known as ISIS rose to power.  Only last Sunday the Bishop of Manchester urged our government to offer asylum to thousands of Christians in northern Iraq.

Some 30,000 Christians are thought to have fled Mosul since the city was seized by these jihadist militants.  They were given the choice of converting to Islam, paying a tax or facing death.

But I wonder how I would react to such an event?  Given that choice, would I simply disown Christ before the cock crows?  It was C S Lewis who observed “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.”

Of course, the prospect if not the reality of persecution is the backdrop to much of the New Testament. Peter may have failed but the risen Jesus refused to give up on him.  But as Jesus reaffirmed Peter’s call, he promised his disciple a martyr’s death (John 21:17-19).

And so Peter was under no illusion of what following Jesus means.  So he writes to God’s elect, his exiles:  “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)

Suffering for Jesus is part and parcel of following Christ.

Why?  In the words of Peter’s colleague, Paul:  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Ephesians 6:12)

That’s why all Christians need to wear the full armour of God.  There are no safe havens.  In fact, the enemy is that much more deadly if we think we are living outside the war zone.

As I read in this morning’s BRF Guidelines.  “There is a war on! There are battles to be fought against oppression, injustice, greed and hatred.  Those who refuse to accept the status quo, who long for a different reality, must fight for it.  Those who refuse to defend an unjust global system, based on the threat of violence, that oppresses the poor so that a few can live in affluence, must challenge the powers that be.

“But we must take care that we are not co-opted by the powers we fight against.”  (page 115)  That is, by opting out we side with the enemy.

So we intercede for the Christians of the middle East. Church leaders in Iraq have selected this Sunday for the Day of Prayer – and so we will be praying with them.   For when it comes to the people of Nineveh, God can do remarkable things – as Jonah, to his own surprise, was to find out.

Posted on: August 8, 2014

Filed under: Ross, Uncategorized

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