Sometimes my heart is broken in church.
I know I can tend to dissect sermons a bit more than I should, so I try to go in with an open heart, knowing God's Word does not return void and He can use anything and anyone to bring people to Himself.
But this Sunday my heart grieved.
I hoped that this church would be one of the thousands taking a moment of silence for the 21 martyrs. I had prepared my heart to watch the soul stirring video. To hear about the persecuted Church. To be reminded of my brothers and sisters in chains.
But as the service started, the 21 weren't talked about. There was no mention of martyrdom. No moment of silence for the persecuted Church. No talk of how the Church should respond to the persecutors of our brothers and sisters sending a message to, "The People of the Cross."
I tried to find redeeming qualities in the sermon. I tried to be positive. I tried to remind myself that someone would walk away from the message encouraged.
But my heart ached.
Urgent physical and spiritual needs surround the globe. Surround us. But where is the urgency?
When did the deep exposition of Scripture become uncommon on Sunday mornings?
When did it become acceptable for pastors to replace Scripture-laden sermons with joke-laden speeches?
By all means meet people where they are, but don't leave people laughing and smiling while their souls are thirsty and searching for things deeper. Meet people where they are, but do not assume people can't handle depth. The shallow only satisfies for awhile. The heart longs for more. Needs more. Was created for more. Why promote temporary satisfaction when the Word provides eternal freedom?
And as the service closed, I still clung to some hope that the 21 would not be forgotten here. That this church wouldn't leave their memory to the media. Instead of a moment of silence for the persecuted church, for the 21, something happened that made me cringe, that caused me to literally say out loud, "Forgive us, Father." The pastor asked for every head to bow and eye to close and for anyone who wanted to make a decision for Christ to raise their hand. He said he didn't want to embarrass anyone, call them out, or make them come forward; it's a personal decision.
Oh Lord, forgive us.
How did our personal conversions turn into silent confessions instead of bold proclamations that Jesus is Lord?
Don't get me wrong, I heard those words countless times throughout my Christian journey. Growing up in church I often heard the call to the crowds to accept Jesus into your heart. But as I've grown in maturity with the Lord, as I've walked through Scripture, as I've read many books from people much smarter than I will ever be, my spiritual eyes were opened to what Christianity should look like. A Christianity that many might call radical, but is really just Biblical.
As thousands of churches honored the 21 who knelt in front of their persecutors and said the name of Jesus moments before meeting Him, thousands more still asked people to silently raise their hands, with every eye closed and head bowed, if they accepted Christ. The People of the Cross are called to boldly proclaim the redeeming work of God. The People of the Cross are given a spirit of power and love and self discipline, not of fear. The People of the Cross are called to take up our crosses and follow Him, not timidly step into Christianity like it is an embarrassment. We are not called to accept Jesus into our hearts. We are called to trust and obey Him, take up our crosses and follow Him.
The 21 martyrs did not step timidly towards their Savior. They knew the cost to their discipleship. They knew the cost in following Christ. But they also knew the cost in not following Him was far greater.
Those members of ISIS might have thought they forced the 21 to their knees, but those faithful 21 knelt before the eternal throne of God and gave up their lives as a sacrifice to their Maker.
Those members of ISIS might have thought they made the 21 tremble with fear, but those faithful 21 feared God over man.
Those members of ISIS might have thought they forced the 21 to stare down death, but those faithful 21 gazed into their eternal glory.
Those members of ISIS might have thought that they sent a terrifying, paralyzing message to the People of the Cross, but the faithful Church is rising up in defense of her Groom with a renewed zeal.
May the Church truly be the Church. May we pray and fast like the New Testament believers. May our days, and nights, be filled with a holy urgency to make His name great and do His work on this earth.
May a David rise up in this generation after hearing the taunts of ISIS to the People of the Cross and go before them, like David before Goliath, and say, "Who are you that you should defy the people of the living God?"
May there be a Saul in the midst of those masked men persecuting Jesus who will be converted to a Paul and win countless souls for Jesus Christ.
May the blood of the martyrs be the seed for revival in the Church.
May their names lead many to the Name Above All Names:
Milad Makeen Zaky
Sarah loves Jesus and her family and is passionate about addressing the urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world. She is the wife of Spencer and mama of Katherine and Claire, and they live in Nashville, TN. She runs a photography business with her husband and writes in order to offer encouragement and invite others to choose grace, joy, and gratitude in the adventure and the mundane. She loves traveling and reading; she will choose unsweet tea over sweet and bootcut jeans over skinny; and she is all sorts of awkward with small talk but thrives with deep conversations.