From the Pastor's Pen
“Christian Lives Matter”
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15 ESV)
Just this last month the US Secretary of State officially recognized that ISIS, the self-styled Islamic State, has been committing genocide against the Christians of Iraq and Syria. While his over-due announcement is welcome in that it admits the reality of the situation, and may lead to some relief for Middle Eastern Christian refugees, it is hardly a surprise to believers that our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are undergoing persecution. We have long read in mission newsletters and even in public media that Christians and their churches have been targeted in countries such as Nigeria, Sudan, Myanmar, most of the Middle East, India, Indonesia, and central Asia.
But even when overt persecution is minimal, there is still hostility to the Gospel and to those who proclaim it. It cannot be otherwise, for our Lord Jesus Christ told us that the world would hate us for His sake. He said, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” (John 15:20), and “they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake . . . You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake,” (Luke 21:12,16-17). Jesus also taught us our response to such persecution: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” (Matthew 5:12), and “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” (Matthew 10:28) and “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you,” (Luke 6:27-28).
We are also to pray for those who suffer for Christ’s sake, because Christian lives matter. They matter to God, and they should matter to us. They matter to God because they are God’s children through faith in His only-begotten Son. They belong to the Bride of Christ, the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church for which Christ died, and are witnesses to the truth of the Gospel by their mutual love, by their proclamation of Christ, and by their suffering and death for Christ’s sake. And when they die, their passing is significant, for as Psalm 116:15 teaches us, ““Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”
Christian lives should also matter to us, because we share an eternal destiny with our fellow believers who will eternally be our sisters and brothers. We have been redeemed by the one Lord, saved by the one baptism, and indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. We will share together in the inheritance of God’s kingdom. Therefore we must pray for each other, work for each other’s well-being, and speak out against persecution and genocide that would destroy their earthly lives and intimidate others from spreading the Gospel or from gladly receiving it.
Even as we remember those who suffer greatly for the faith, we must remember that our lives matter, too. We do not have to be tortured or driven from our homes to be important to God, because he loves us as his children. He also has important work for us to do while we live in this world. Ephesians 2:8-9 proclaims the wonderful truth that we are saved by God’s grace through faith alone, apart from our works; but then verse 10 goes on to say that we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared ahead of time for us to walk in them. That means that each of us has important, God-given works that He appointed each of us to do. Therefore, as long as we are still alive, how we live our lives and what we do with them matters to God.
Our lives matter because we have certain work-assignments which are common to all Christians: 1. sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world, beginning with the people whom God has placed in our lives; 2. helping those who are hurting or are in need; 3. teaching our children about Jesus and about the essentials of the faith; 4. worshipping God regularly and receiving the Lord’s Supper; 5. encouraging fellow believers in the faith; 6. living righteously in accordance with God’s commandments; and 7. praying without ceasing with thanksgivings, intercessions for others, and praises for God. No matter who you are, if you are in Christ, you have work to do!
Our lives also matter because God gives each of us special assignments, some which are very clear to us, and others which are still to be revealed as we step out in faith and do the common work we all share together. Maybe there’s a certain person we are to witness to, or a certain person or group of people we are to serve; maybe there is a critical prayer need for which we are to be the one to pray; maybe there is a ministry we are to lead or a mission on which we are to go. May you find the work which God created ahead of time for you to do, because your life – and how you spend it – really does matter!
– Pastor Rich Eddy