"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." -Tertullian
I woke up extremely early perplexed and disturbed. I'd just had a strange dream wherein I found myself in danger at all sides of the situation I was in. Needless to say, it was one of those dreams where I couldn't remember the exact details of the scenario, but I was still left with lingering uneasiness and paranoia. As I lie awake, almost immediately the thoughts of the slaughters in Iraq as well as the killing of the freshly graduated 18 year-old in St Louis rushed to my mind, amplifying the unsettling feeling I was already wrestling with. To top it off, there was a peaking thunderstorm booming outside. So here I was at 4am between sleepiness and worry, trying to figure out what to do in the moment.
After some social media scrolling in an attempt to distract my mind, I found myself finally sliding off the bed to my knees. As I began to pray, I asked the Lord to help me see His goodness. Asked Him for forgiveness for taking this long to come to Him. Asked Him to strengthen the resolve of Christ-followers in Iraq and to calm the unruly passions of those in Ferguson, MO. I asked Him to send leaders to guide them peacefully. Still I felt uneasy. Although I could sense the Spirit of God moving to calm the troubled waters of my heart, I still desired actual encouragement in the midst of the weight of so much tragedy.
I decided to get up and go to the gym to take another step in distracting my mind. What happened when I sat in my car was an absolute answer to my desire. I turned the radio on and began to listen to a program I was unfamilar with, which two men were discussing the spread of the gospel in the continent of Africa. One of the men seemed to have been working in the missions capacity and was sharing how they've seen many of those in African countries come to faith in Christ...in spite of heavy Islamic infuence in Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia. He cheerfully shared how brothers and sisters were standing in the face of opposition holding firmly to the testimony of Christ in spite of the implications of Sharia law. He reminded the listening audience of the rich church history Africa enjoyed with early missional efforts were born in Africa and that God has been faithful to preserve His church throughout the centuries. He began to encourage us to continue to pray and trust the Lord in spite of all the persecutions and violence we are hearing in the news because martyrdom has always been a reality of the Christian faith. Right before I got out of my car, he provided the Tertullian quote: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."
I was encouraged to remember that though we don't face such adverse situations intimately, we are not removed from their reality. The spread of the gospel has always been built on blood and suffering. This grim reality often escapes us as we enjoy the Western conveniences that tend to numb us to heart-piercing hardship. We then read an article documenting gruesome details of child slaughter and watch viral videos and rediscover our human conscience toward an everyday reality in another part of the world. There was no CNN or MSNBC in the days of Nero, where early Christians were terrorized by his hand. We have writings and second hand accounts of circumstances we shudder to imagine ourselves in. However, this is not the time to shink back in horror and allow our grief and dispair to sow seeds of doubt in the faithfulness of our God. In this social media generation, we should remain resolute and steadfast in prayer while fervently trusting God to rescue what we would consider to be the worst of men. We must not allow ourselves to be be tempted to hate the oppressors and positions ourselves as "better than" anyone who is committing such atrocities. Rather, we must be like Jesus-- who in Luke 23:34, displaying the fullness of his Godhood in the moment of what may have been His deepest moment of suffering, cried out to the Father to "forgive them for they know not what they do." We must be like Jesus. We must trust the Lord to build His church. We must know that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Be encouraged, there is no injustice that escapes the only One who can be called fully Just. He will render what is due to those who are evil, but He will also extend grace, bringing glory to His great name.
With trembling hearts we say: be it according to your will, Lord Jesus.