Summary: How can we preach peace, when we are living in an age of martyrdom? A message focusing on the body of Christ using two stories of the 21 men martyred in Libya for their faith.
So Send I You Series: Be At Peace
Scripture: John 15:18-19; 16:1-2
Twenty-one young men, - the oldest was 42 - forced onto a beach in Libya, and brutally murdered - for no other crime than their faith in Jesus Christ. People of the Cross. Martyred.
Saeed Abedini, an American citizen - a pastor who wanted nothing more than to help his people, in Iran to build orphanages, arrested and given a jail sentence of 8 years in the worst prison in the country. Tortured and mocked. His only crime - faith in Jesus Christ, and wanting to help orphaned children.
Wednesday this week, a 14 year old boy succumbs to the wounds of his burned body, and dies. 55% of his body was burned when two young men douse him with oil and set him ablaze - why - because when asked if he believed in Jesus, he said yes.
Listen to the Word of the Lord:
Jeremiah 6:14, “They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace.”
Jeremiah 8:11, “They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace.”
Ezekiel 13:10, “These evil prophets deceive my people by saying, ‘All is peaceful’ when there is no peace at all!
Hani loved his four children -- three girls and a boy, the youngest -- more than anything in the world, his family says. He was gentle and kind, always making a joke whenever he could. His wife Magda Aziz, 29, will forever remember his laugh.
"I felt like he was an angel," Magda said of her deeply devout husband. "There was a prayer in anything he said."
Hani desperately wanted to come home after eight months laboring in Libya. He was sick and tired of the relentless violence and the constant threat of kidnapping. But leaving was a difficult choice. There was money in Libya, unlike in Al Aour, money that he needed to support Magda and his children. But he finally decided to come home to his family, she said. He was killed before he ever got a chance to leave.
"He took care of all of us," Magda explains, weakly. The women around her nod in unison, passing around a faded photograph of the smiling father with his little boy.
"He was so kind," Magda says. "He gave us hugs and kisses.”
Magda will never forget the last conversation she had with her husband. He called on New Year's wanting to speak with each of his children. The couple exchanged tender words. He asked if she wanted or needed anything -- he would try to get it to her, whatever it was. She remembers saying, "I want you safe." And he asked her to pray for him. She never heard from Hani again.
When she saw the video of his beheading on Egyptian television, her family cried so hard that she says neighbors called an ambulance. She doesn't talk much about how she feels now, apart from the fact that she's still in shock.
"I miss him," she says with a whisper.
Her three daughters sit around her, clinging to their mother. The oldest girl begins to weep as the younger two stare off, unable to comprehend the grief around them.
"Your dad is in the sky," a relative says, hoping to console the little girl. "He's in the heavens.”
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/18/isis-christians-killed-_n_6703278.html, accessed April 16, 2015, 7:36 a.m.)
How can I stand before you today and preach a message of peace after sharing these stories? Would I be just like those false prophets in the Old Testament, saying to you, “Peace, peace,” when it seems like there is no peace. Certainly not for these men. Thirteen of the 21 martyrs were from the same village as Hani. All went to work in Libya to support their families.
And these men are OUR family - they are our brothers. Blood brothers. Bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. We're the same family. And they are being murdered, and tortured, persecuted in ways we can only imagine - martyred because they held to their faith in Jesus Christ.
I wonder, are you at all like me? Do you sometimes lay awake at night, thinking about the persecution, and fear that you might not have the courage? Do you, like me, tremble just a little at the thought that if someone put a gun to your head, or a knife to your neck, that you MIGHT NOT have the courage to hold to your faith in Jesus Christ.
We SAY we believe in Him. We SAY we love Him. We SING - He is our ALL in ALL.
But is He enough? If we were given the choice to renounce our faith in Jesus Christ, or have our head cut off - what would we choose?