Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Have You Ever Lost A Family Member?

Have you ever lost a family member?  Regardless of whether you expected it or it came as a complete shock, losing someone is never an easy thing to deal with.  I know.  I've been there.  On several occasions I've had family members that I love very dearly pass away.  They were here one moment and gone the next.

Last week I awakened to the headlines that a group of Egyptian Christians were killed.  They were on their way to a prayer meeting when they were attacked.  Men, women, and children all died because they believe in Jesus.  I sat there staring at that headline and I hurt inside.  I thought to myself how often I read of tragedies like that and waste little time thinking about it.  Most of the time, I feel sad for a few moments but hey, life goes on.  I've got things to do, people to see.  So, I just dive into the everyday madness and go on with life.

This day, however it was different.  I thought to myself, as believers, these are family members.  Nevermind, the theological or doctrinal differences, these are fellow followers of Christ who were murdered because they believe in the same Jesus that I do.  There is a bond that we should have because we've all been adopted into the same family.  On this particular day, I couldn't just move on with life.  As a matter of fact, much of what my life is filled with disgusted me in that moment.  Things I value, things I hold as important, things I worry or stress about, seemed to pale in comparison to just being alive. I woke up on that day not even considering being hated so much for my faith that I would be killed for it.  I woke up on that day, not at all worried about the possibility of my kids growing up without their dad or my wife living without her totally amazing, hunk of a husband.  No, I woke up complaining about the aches in my back.  I awakened concerned about the bills I have to pay, the yard I need to mow, my ever increasing to-do list, and how hot it was going to be.

Somehow my problems didn't matter for the next few minutes.  As I read the story, I was reminded of how good my life is.  I was reminded that I can preach something on Sunday morning and not worry about my head still being attached on Monday.  I was reminded that the petty problems I face in a given day can't compare to the horrors that believers face all over this world.  I was reminded that death is not stalking me every waking moment because of my faith.  I was reminded how much I take my freedom for granted.  And I was reminded how disconnected I can become to the plight of my fellow believers throughout the world.

I watched over the course of the next few days as some posted this story as a political statement.  I thought to myself how that cheapens the real story here.  These murdered Christians didn't set out to give us fuel for some pathetic political debate.  They weren't trying to make the headlines on that particular day.  They spent their lives not ashamed of the Jesus they served even though it meant risking their very lives.  They woke up on that day, no different than any other.  They weren't trying to be martyrs, heroes, or famous.  They were determined to live; to truly live.  To live the kind of life, God designed for us to live. They did not need the comforts we have in America to live for Christ.  They did not need a smokin' worship band, cushioned seats, a/c, and a great preacher in order to show up to worship the God they served.  The very fact that they were associated with Christ brought the reality that tomorrow was not promised to them.  Yet, they served Him anyway.  They woke up on that day, not ashamed of Jesus and they would lay down their lives because it.  I'm thinking the headlines should be less about the tragedy of their death and more about their incredible faith and how they lived it day in and day out.

I know that I'll go on with life.  Here, in America, we all will.  We'll order our next $3.00 latte, kick back and watch the next big movie to come out, and argue about who is the greatest basketball player to ever play the game.  We'll argue about politics, complain about the weather, and be offended by something petty in church. And, on the other side of the world, there will be a believer who will not make it through the day because somebody hates them so much because they are a member of our family. I pray that in our "getting back" to life, we will not get back to life as normal.  I'm praying that we'll stop and think about what we've got and how great we've got it.  I'm praying that we'll complain a little less, be thankful a great deal more, and take advantage of the freedom we've been afforded.  But most of all, I'm praying that we'll be more aware of our family members who are being persecuted daily.  

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