For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! – Romans 5.
A young missionary couple, recently arrived in a country where speaking of Christianity is illegal, wrote a letter to their would-be executioners, saying they forgave them because of what Christ has already done. They assumed that at some point, they will be killed for their faith, and wanted to express beforehand their complete forgiveness and love.
Another young American couple, so convinced that Jesus loves ISIS as much as anybody else, gave up successful careers and moved to what is possibly the least favourite holiday hotspot in the world. It is right in the midst of where ISIS runs most rampant, and the mere mention of Jesus in any conversation is likely to be met with death. A middle-aged woman, with few qualifications and seemingly little to offer, is working alongside others in reaching the hardest to reach with the news that God loves them and has provided a way of transforming their hatred into love.
As I recently watched their stories unfold, I was dismayed to realise before the Lord that in my pre-Christ state I was absolutely no different to anyone signed up to ISIS. Even those who slit the throats of a group of orange suited believers down by the sea. In fact, I genuinely wonder if I wasn’t even more culpable given my privilege and background. The confronting reality of discovering and thinking about this, has shaken me. I have been closer in personality to a member of ISIS, than to Jesus Christ. I was God’s enemy, when horrifyingly, I always thought I was pretty good.
In a world that has adopted the mantra, ‘love humankind, but hate your neighbour’ this is an expression of the deepest love anyone can show another human being. The result, painfully slow and only at a cost few could ever contemplate, is that darkness is being pushed back in these places, replaced with the love of God found only in Jesus.
Why is this so important for you and me?
We have the lost the very sharp edge of Faith that says we are all equally, enemies of God. That outside of Christ, God sees all of us in much the same vein as he sees the average ISIS member; murderers, liars, thieves, adulterers and covetous. That outside of Christ, God is going to deal with us in a manner so terrifying, that none of us can imagine how that can be. We are so dulled by our culture, that we laugh such a notion off.
Worse, is that the average Christian suffers from a cultural malaise that denies there is really a problem, that God loves everyone and so what is the worry? Our ‘cultural Christianity’ has now become so bad, that even when the Bible clearly calls something sin, we tend to be uncertain as to whether God is really serious. Such is the condition, that the lines are blurred, and many who regularly ‘go to church’ and think they are saved, might be as prepped for hell as their unsaved neighbour.
God is looking for believers here and now, who will stand up and make the clarion call as to the real state of affairs. That, like missionaries serving in ISIS territory, are prepared to tell their neighbour that God has offered them a way out through Christ, but that unless they repent they are under severe judgement – God will treat them in much the same way as he is going to treat ISIS soldiers.
Few would deny that such people deserve everything God gives them, but what about us? Can we really call ourselves ‘followers of Jesus’ when we blithely let everyday people pass us by without reacting in any way? We must explain that God is love and has provided us with a way out from the coming terror of judgement. We, and they, must respond with urgency.