By Scott Redd
The public martyrdom of twenty-one Egyptian Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea was surely intended to serve the strategic purposes of ISIS in multiple ways. The public nature of the act gave cause to galvanize radical Muslims and further establish this conflict as one between faithful Muslims and the infidels. ISIS operatives yearn for this interpretation of their movement, and their public relations machine is bent on bringing it about.
Second, like all acts of terrorism, this one is also meant to inspire fear in their enemies. The fact that the massacre occurs on the banks of the Mediterranean drives home the point they want to make, which is that ISIS can project their power far away from their base in Syria and Iraq. They want to be perceived as a global movement so that their threats against Rome and other symbolic Western hubs might be taken seriously.
So how ought we as Christians think about this terrible act committed deliberately against those who claim the name and cause of Christ? The intentions above may be the intentions of the men who took the lives of these Christian brothers, but they ought not inform the response the global Christian community. We are not called to fear, but we are called to grieve as those with hope.
Grief: A Time for Weeping
First, we grieve. We grieve for the men whose lives were ended in this violent and unjust way. We grieve for their families and friends who miss them being in this world and have to do that with constant reminders of exactly how they died. We grieve for the daughters and sons who go to sleep at night without the comfort that their father will protect them while they sleep. We grieve for the wives who have to now find a way to make it in this world without their husband. We grieve for the believers who live in environments rife with persecution, who do not know what each day will bring.
We should not forget that humans made in the image of God suffer all around the world, and each instance is a cause for grief and indignity. Such things should never ever be, which is why every one of us longs for a different kind of world where such horrors do not take place.
But there is a unique form of grief for those who die for the sake of the gospel. It has a unique flavor, like how the loss of a family is different from the loss of a stranger. We feel that we know them, and I am convinced that we will know them in glory.
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