You’ve likely seen recent images of twenty-one Egyptian young men – Coptic Christians – clad in orange jumpsuits, kneeling in line on the Libyan seashore. Behind each one stands a hooded radical Islamist, clad in black, clasping a knife.
The barbaric, bloody act, repeated twenty-one times, of severing the heads from the bodies of living humans – these young men, shows the depths to which people can plunge when their hearts and minds are gripped with graceless religious and ideological passion. Mercy and truth are alien to graceless religion and hate-filled ideology.
Those barbaric executions were made even more horrific as the murderers cast the bodies into the sea, rendering it red with the blood of these 21st Century Christian martyrs. That act denied their families the opportunity to perform their cultural and faith burial practices.
Information has emerged that indicates the majority of commercial media outlets seem to have ignored certain details. A missionary with contacts in the region shared that the Coptic young men, mostly in their mid-20s, went to Libya in search of work to support their families who were living in poverty in Egypt.
During the weeks prior to the executions their captors tortured them in an attempt to get them to deny Christ in exchange for their lives. Each of them stood firm, refusing to deny their Saviour. The beautiful, if not astounding, thing is that they died singing praises to the Lord.
I’ve since learned that Jim Daly of Focus on the Family confirmed these things in his blog, Daly Focus, for he also has contacts in Egypt. He also points out that “NBC News devoted ten times more coverage to its 40th anniversary of ‘Saturday Night Live’ than to this tragedy.”
However, the faithful testimony of those twenty-one young men will outshine the ephemeral glory of the world. The world with its glitz and glamour – one that’s fixated on “let’s eat, drink and be merry”; a world in which swathes of the Christian community are tarnished by tawdry scandal, a church in which many are deceived by the allure of material wealth and beguiled by the cult of celebrity.
The question comes: How much of that world has leached into my soul?
Such a world and such a church is not worthy of these young men nor of the Lord to whom they remained true. Perhaps they didn’t fully understand the claims of Christ and the Gospel, and maybe they didn’t live perfect, saintly lives. God alone knows. In the final analysis they remained true.
Some of us may have sung these chorus lines of the bouncy gospel hymn, Who Can Cheer the Heart like Jesus:
All that thrills my soul is Jesus,
He is more than life to me,
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see.*
Got that? “He is more than life to me.” More than sweethearts, more than wives and children, and more than other loved ones. More than life itself. Ultimately, those young men proved it with their life-blood. What a powerful inspiration for our spiritual walk, this Lent.
Let us pray for their families and for all who are persecuted for the Gospel’s sake – for the “illusion of the cross” as one of the jihadists called it. The spiritual meaning and significance of the Cross of Christ was no illusion, but Divine Reality, to those young men in their time of trial and witness.
They loved not their lives unto the death. A crown of righteousness and glory is surely theirs, by the mercy and grace of God. Their faith was found to be radical. Like a tap root, it reached way down into the soil of the love and sustaining grace of God, and it carried them through.
Let us pray that the Spirit of God will penetrate the darkness of their killers’ hearts and transform their lives.
May our hearts fill up with wonder and our gratitude go deep, in view of the brave example those martyrs set for us. And may it inspire and challenge us to dwell in the love of God the Father and the grace of the Lord Jesus, and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – One God, forever blessed, AMEN.
*Composer: Thoro Harris; © owner, Nazarene Publishing House.
I again include this backyard snapshot, which includes our yard and our neighbour’s, too. Today it speaks to me of the tranquility of a neighbourhood at peace. I could wish that people everywhere were able to experience such a blessing, and for it never to be shattered.
21 Egyptian Copts Photo Credit: Our source, Buzz-Feed News
Positive reader feedback for the book “Raise Your Gaze . . . Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart.” Some have purchased second and third copies – and even a fourth – to give to family members and friends.
Available from author for $17.00 (list price $19.50) + $5.50 shipping to an address in Canada. See Contact Form below.
Ebook version now available. Click: Raise Your Gaze … EbookNow out: Raise Your Gaze – Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart collection of 52 articles from P-Pep! column, sprinkled with Words to Bless. Inspirational; some biographical. 190 pp. ISBN: 978-0-9920074-2-3 Available from Angel Hope Publishing: Angelhopepublishing@glynisbelec.com ; www.glynisbelec.com Amazon.com ; Amazon.ca Ebook version now available.
Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children’s / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing. 39 stories, 232 pp, b/w illustrations. Finalist – Word Alive Press. ISBN: 1897373-21-X. List price $15.99. Available through bookstores, the author and at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca
The book has found a place in various settings with a readership ranging from kids to senior adults. His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate (of Southwestern Ontario). His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario. ~~+~~