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THE MEANING OF THE CROSS


In the 19th century, Armenian Christians, under a Turkish Muslim government, experienced a tremendous amount of persecution. The government lifted the ban on Muslims converting to Christianity in 1856. Then just eight years later, they began arresting these Muslim converts to Christianity. From 1895 to 1896 government soldiers killed up to 100,000 Armenian civilians in an attempt to kill every Armenian Christian within Turkish borders. Lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and other intellectuals were rounded up and charged with subversion. Many had their heads placed in vises and squeezed until they collapsed.


Then the Turkish government set April 24, 1896, as the day to kill the rest of the Armenian Christians. Nearly 600,000 Christians died on that day, but some escaped. One of those who escaped was a young girl of 18 who stumbled into an American camp.


"Are you in pain?" a nurse asked when she arrived.


"No," she replied, "but I have learned the meaning of the cross."


The nurse thought she was mentally disoriented and questioned her further. Pulling down the one garment she wore, the young girl exposed a bare shoulder. There, burned deeply into her flesh, was the figure of a cross.


"I was caught with others in my village. The Turks stood me up and asked, 'Muhammed or Christ?' I said, 'Christ, always Christ.' For seven days they asked me this same question and each day when I said 'Christ' a part of this cross was burned into my shoulder. On the seventh day they said, 'Tomorrow if you say "Muhammed" you live. If not, you die.' Then we heard that Americans were near and some of us escaped. That is how I learned the meaning of the cross."


She learned it through the burning, and that's how we too learn the meaning of the cross. We learn it through the fiery trials that come our way. George MacDonald (1824-1905) once said, "The Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like his."


(Marti Hefley, By Their Blood, Baker, 1996, p.342. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, In the Fire! 7/30/2011)

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