“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” -Matthew 5:44-45
I’m good at obeying this commandment when my enemies are my peers. When the persecution is bullying or badgering or belittling. When it’s not too hard to turn a blind eye or forgive and forget.
But every fiber of my being tightens and twists at the realization that I’m commanded to pray for the ISIS militants. That I’m commanded to love them, too. That when enemies REALLY means enemies, all the more is required of me.
And as I pound my fists on my desktop and my stomach crawls up into my throat when images and videos of their savagery floods my timeline, I shake fists at a God who asks me to love them. Because our love should be reserved for those with good will and intention, right? Our love should be reserved for those who love us in return. Our love should be reserved for those who don’t hide like cowards behinds hooded veils and spill the blood of the innocent willingly. Shouldn’t it? SHOULDN’T IT?!
And then I’m reminded…
His love wasn’t.
His love wasn’t reserved from or for anything.
So why should mine be?
My heart aches for the victims. My heart bleeds for the families of the persecuted. For the nations being torn to shreds by a degree of hate I can hardly fathom. My heart pounds for the countless who’s lives are SO far from the glory and good intended by God, and so scarred by the evil that is ripping through the Middle East like a raging wildfire.
But I’m trying to remember God is good. Even when it’s hard to see.
So without any answers or understanding or comprehension, I hit my knees. And I began praying without words for a group who’s name I hardly even wanted to speak. And it was in that moment God began to reveal so many powerful things…
“Pray for the Saul…”
With those first few words my heart and mind opened to the truth that sat on my nightstand. A story that had already been written in His book and was no new news to the King of all Kings.
Paul. The one we all sing the praises of. The author of much of the New Testament. An OVERWHELMING force for the cause of Christianity. He was once Saul…and he was once the one doing the persecuting.
My heart sprinted to Damascus. To the blinding. To the bold and powerful revelation of the King. And I was reminded to pray. To not let my heart be too far removed from the Gospel to remember that one of the greatest authors of our faith was once a twin to the cloaked ISIS members persecuting Christians. He was encouraging all of the exact same things. And yet God met him.
And it changed EVERYTHING.
Because our God is the God of extraordinary saving.
I BELIEVE there could be a Saul within the ISIS militant team. And if nobody else chooses to believe that, well at least my constant, unyielding prayers for that type of conversion will count for something. But what if more of us believed for that? And what if we actually began praying, expectantly?
Let us pray God seizes a Saul from ISIS and creates a Paul who will transform the Arab world.
“Nothing they are doing should be news of defeat…”
The book of Revelations is hard to read. It doesn’t mince complicated words and it seems far too vicious and bloody.
But then again, so is our world. And when I came across this scripture I realize everything that is going on TODAY was already deeply foreseen…
“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.” -Revelations 6:9-11
Sadly, I feel this will not be the last of these types of killings. But, if anything, that should strengthen our faith that the Word of God is true and that this world will one day be gloriously redeemed. That all those who are suffering at the hands of Satan now will soon have VICTORY. And that those who died were instantaneously welcomed into an eternity of Heavenly glory.
I wonder if ISIS realizes that they are carrying out Christian prophesy? That God is not blindsided by the schemes of evil, but that they were already foreseen and assured to us in His Holy writing. I hope the families of the victims stand strong in that truth. That to be persecuted clinging to the glory of the risen King is NOT defeat–but bravery. And that their reward will be rich, despite their suffering.
Moreso than that, I wonder if we realize that truth? That the world is not in turmoil. That we serve a BIG God who already saw this coming and braced us for this horrifying reality. And that even though it seems SO bad, God is sovereign. And these challenges are not for nothing. They are for EVERYTHING. I pray people will see the truth in God’s Word and ALL will come to believe.
If nobody else sees that, well at least my constant, unyielding prayers for the coming glory will count for something. But what if more of us believed? And what if we actually began praying, confidently?
I pray we all find a sense of rest in the promises and hard truths of the Word, and cling to the hope of coming glory.
“I am the God of angel armies. Call on ME.”
I’ll be the first to say it, I’m not well enough politically versed to have much opinion on what our nation’s response should be. I pray for the leaders who make those types of decisions and I thank God for the bravery of the military members who carry out their bold commissioning.
But I AM well versed in the power and the might and the unyielding ability of the RIGHTEOUS God who has already defeated the grave and who is capable of ALL things.
I am familiar with the God who is gentle enough to hear my cries and MIGHTY enough to OBLITERATE the most evil of things. Make no mistake, my God is a God of Angel armies and ISIS is PETTY in the hands of my King.
I do not know God’s plans. I do not know why He has allowed the type of evil ISIS is afflicting to carry on for so long. But I DO know that those things are not for me now to know, and will one day be revealed as I sit at the right hand of His Majesty.
In the meantime, I. WILL. PRAY.
I will pray in Jesus Christ’s name that God’s will be done. I will pray for a radical obliteration of all evil things. I will pray for the might of a MIGHTY King to put an end to such horrific suffering. I will pray He be a fortress, a shield, all strength. I will pray He perform miracles and that His miracles be seen.
I will pray without ceasing, because that’s what I am commanded to do. And I will genuinely love the ones suffering AND the ones inflicting the suffering–never releasing hope that they, too, will come to know forgiveness, grace, and Jesus the King. Oh I will pray. I will pray for BIG and BOLD and MONUMENTAL things. And I will pray that we rise up as a nation–AS PEOPLE OF THE CROSS–and pray that ISIS be disjointed by the King.
What if more of us believe in that? And what if we actually started praying, boldly?
I pray we remember He is the God of all things, and begin pouring as much energy and time and focus into PRAYING as we seemingly have into hating the broken, battered things.
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