The Resurrection, The Cross, and Persecution of Christians in the Middle East
“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” — 2 Corinthians 5:18
This weekend, as we celebrate the most significant Christian holiday of the year, the Resurrection, churches in Egypt — which have been the target of Islamists — will either meet in secret or be forced to forego meeting altogether. The Coptic believers make up one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, dating back to 55 A.D. As ISIS’s reign of terror spreads throughout the Middle East, some may be tempted to think the terrorists and the tyrants have won, that Christianity is in retreat. Such a notion couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While the targeting of Christians in Egypt and the Middle East is without question troubling, it is not new. This was the story of the Christian church for most of the first 1,000 years. The Copts claim John Mark, one of the broader group of Jesus’s disciples and the author of the Gospel of Mark, as their founder. According to Church history in 68 A.D., John Mark was martyred in Egypt on Easter. The martyrdom of John Mark and most of the other disciples did not stop the spread of Christianity — it only fueled it.
Whether it is persecution by Islamists, communists, and atheists — or prosecution by liberal governments, nothing will stop the truth of the gospel from transforming hearts and minds and communities and countries. Why? Because of what we will celebrate this weekend — the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus overcame the grave gives us the confidence, as the Apostle Paul pointed out, to face whatever opposition may come our way — even death itself, because to be absent from this temporary body means for believers that we will be present with the Lord.
Equipped with this confidence, we should be bold in not only living out our faith in Christ but sharing it as well. As we have been reconciled to God through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we are to share the truth of reconciliation with the world. This weekend, as we gather in our churches, we must pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted for nothing more than being followers of Jesus. But we must do more than pray. We, as a nation, cannot wash our hands of contributing to the record levels of Christian persecution worldwide, as identified by Open Doors USA and others.
Both our domestic and foreign policies over the last eight years have aided ISIS’s bloody march across the Middle East. It’s critical that we redouble our efforts to root out the hostility towards Christians here at home. Otherwise, it sends a message to the tyrants and terrorists abroad that it’s open season on Christians. The message is clear: if our own government won’t protect the rights of Christians here at home, why would we protect the lives of Christians abroad?
I am hopeful that the message is about to change under the new Trump administration.
For more on the tragedy in Egypt, don’t miss my interview with Fox Business host Stuart Varney.
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