Revolution: Jesus loves Every Jihadist

Love your enemies! Has there ever been a more difficult edict? Every day we are confronted by bloodshed and violence inflicted by very unloving types. Graphic TV news portrays distressing vision depicting innocent victims mutilated by Islamic State or other brutal jihadists.

How can we love enemies who demonstrate such ruthless character? First we must accept Jesus came as a revolutionary. He came to confront the spiralling disaster of a fallen world.

015-jesus-diesThe Romans actually crucified Jesus as a traitor. He was charged with the crime of sedition. A sign saying ‘King of the Jews’ was nailed on his cross, to indicate his crime. He was seen to be a threat to the ruling Roman power of the day. He was a Jewish revolutionary, as far as they were concerned.

From the cross Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Love verbalised in the most brutal circumstances.

 Violence

Violence was not uncommon to Jesus or his followers. In fact Matthew, the gospel writer quotes Jesus saying to them: “But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew chapter 5, verse 44) No hiding conflict and persecution there.

Before we think about modern terrorism and the brutality of jihadist groups let us confirm Jesus knew what he was saying.

He warned the disciples ‘I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves’ and ‘they will flog you in the synagogues.” (Matthew chapter 10, verse 16)

The Apostle John was the only disciple who did not die violently. Peter was martyred in Rome where he was crucified upside down, so that his death would not be seen as the equal of Jesus. James died by the sword. His unnamed accuser was so moved by his courage he embraced the Christian faith and asked to die with the disciple. The Romans obliged and both were beheaded. Jesus also chose to die violently.

The revolution in His teaching is found in three words: “God is love.” He is not about love. He does not have to choose love. He is love. If we know him and have united with him we are bathed in love. It’s amazing.

Molenbeek

UnknownSo how do we deal with jihadists? People are slaughtered week after week and we are deeply moved by so many bloody events.

Molenbeek is a neighbourhood in Brussels and it is described as the incubator for the recent Paris and Brussels terror attacks. It is home to a critical community battling poverty and unemployed youth. Out of this unhealthy environment jihadi foreign fighters emerge and many are active in Syria and Iraq. Belgium has the highest EU ratio of young men who have links with ISIS in Syria.

The hurt and pain is still evident in Molenbeek. There is a gathering of Muslim mothers today who are getting support from a group called ‘Les Parents Concernes’ (The Affected Parents). They are meeting with mothers who are grieving. These hurting women have watched their kin become radicalized and join ISIS. “Our children are buying one way tickets to their graves,” one mother said.

These mothers are trying to make a difference but they feel isolated and cope in the face of little or no support.

Christian Aid Mission (CAM) is on the frontline. They report Islamic State militants are disguising themselves as refugees at UN refugee camps in Jordan.

“The camps are dangerous because they have ISIS, Iraqi militants and Syrian militias. It’s a place for gangs,’ the spokesman said. Mission workers enter only with police protection.

An ISIS fighter came to faith in Jesus after watching the love of God demonstrated by the Christians.

Action

A man in the Middle East told me he came to faith after being taught to hate all his life. Love your enemies was an explosive shock to him.

The jihadists are made in the image of God. He grieves for them. Remember what Jesus told his disciples? “Pray for those who persecute you.”

While we want them restrained, contained and even detained, above all we pray for their salvation. We pray for outreaches like Christian Aid Mission and all the others courageously impacting the danger zones today.

Many Muslims are very distressed. Every day thousands are leaving Islam. According to a report by faithfreedom.org in Africa alone, 16,000 Muslims leave Islam everyday. This same report quoted an interview with an Islamic cleric Ahmad al Qataari on the internet site Aljazeera.net. He said, ‘in every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.” (Islam in Fast Demise by Ali Sina, faithfreedom.org)

God is love. Visit the Christian Aid Mission website – http://www.christianaid.org. Pray for Christians ministering on the frontlines. Above all else, pray.

Advertisements

Holy Days Are Here Again!

“Everyday for more than a millennium, since the time of Moses, the priests had offered sacrifices for the sins of God’s people at the third hour and the ninth hour – at dawn and at three in the afternoon.

And each year since the time of Moses, Israel had celebrated Passover, and the priests had offered the daily sacrifice at three in the afternoon before Shabbat and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

“Now all those offerings came to one great, final conclusion as God’s Lamb, presented to the people asthumbnail-1 He rode into Jerusalem on lamb-selection day, was offered at the exact hour of the last sacrifice of Passover.” (Echoes of His Presence, Ray Vander Laan, Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colorado)

Quite a few years ago, those words by Ray Vander Laan touched me deeply. I pictured Jesus riding on the donkey, into Jerusalem, on lamb-selection day and that fact, brought me to my knees, overwhelmed. God is amazing and His covenant is specific and provable. He has never detoured from His plan to bring us into His Kingdom.

“The spiritual does not come first, but the physical and then the spiritual.” (1 Corinthians chapter 15 verse 46) Your body, the natural, was formed, then came life, the spiritual. This same formula is applied to the link between the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter. Understanding the principles of Passover uncovers the riches of Easter.

Passover

Passover is the most ancient of Jewish festivals. For seven days in Israel Passover celebrates the deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt (Exodus chapter 12 verse 13) They were slaves before Pharaoh let them go.

Easter proclaims the freedom found when Jesus rescues the sinner from the bondage of sin. “My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee,” Charles Wesley wrote. (Hymn: ‘And can it be I should Gain’) Am I showing my age with that illustration?

Jesus made salvation available by the shedding of His blood, a gesture directly linked to ancient traditions. The word ‘blood’ appears 346 times in the Old Testament (KJV translation), and 101 times in the New Testament, according to research published by Angelfall.com.

It helps to understand the season of Passover is closely identified with the Jewish feast of Unleavened Bread held in spring to symbolize the beginning of new life.

003-shepherds-sheepEvery year Jews remember they were redeemed from Egyptian slavery by slaughtering an unblemished lamb. Jesus is called our Passover. The Apostle Paul who studied under the great Jewish sage Rabbi Gamaliel, wrote, “Messiah, our pesach (Passover), has been sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 7). John the Baptist referred to Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’ (John 1:29) He died in Jerusalem at Passover time.

When Jews celebrate Passover they share in the Seder (meaning ‘order or arrangement’ in Hebrew). They recall Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the suffering in Egypt of their people. The miracle of their redemption by the parting of the Sea of Reeds is joyfully acknowledged.

Until recently reclining was preferred during the Seder. Resting on the left side, gave freedom for the right hand to handle food and drink. Reclining was regarded as a form of freedom and equality. No one sat at the head of the table. It was a communal affair.

Wine is a symbol

Wine is a symbol of joy and happiness and four cups of wine are served.

Why four cups? “The accepted explanation is that these four cups symbolize the four expressions of redemption that are found in the Book of Exodus: ‘I will bring you out….I will deliver you…I will redeem you…I will take you to me for a people.” (Passover, Keter Books, Jerusalem)

thumbnail-2Right at the end of the Seder, comes an incredible event. It involves the ‘afikomen’ a Greek word meaning dessert. The afikomen is matzah, a bread made with flour, water and salt. It can be round, square or rectangular but it is flat and quite crisp. Three pieces of the afikomen are covered by a cloth. The host takes the middle piece, breaks it in half, replaces one piece under the cloth but hides the second portion earlier.

Within Ashkenazi groups, children at the Seder are invited to find the hidden piece. the winner is rewarded. Maybe this game was designed to keep the youngsters awake!

Consider the matzah, striped and pierced, even to this day. He was pierced and striped for our sins. (Isaiah 53:5) Even the Afikomen, which was hidden for a moment, reminds us of the Lord who made Himself known to us, and brought us to the Father and brought us eternal freedom, a reward to be treasured


His word is life

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

They said to him’, “Sir, give us this bread always.” ‘Jesus said to them’, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John chapter 6 verses 32-35)