Sunday, March 15, 2015

Forgiving ISIS

While [members of the Sanhedrin] were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

— Acts 7:59-60

The world took note when the Coptic Christian community in Egypt announced that it had forgiven the Islamic State terrorist group that beheaded 20 of its members a few weeks ago.

I learned today, however, that a tract was circulating that part of the world with the same sentiment — and it’s getting notice, with even Muslims reading it according to my source.

And do you know what? If this kind of thing is happening, it really could mean the eventual end of Islamic-based terrorism.

You see, one distinction between Christianity and Islam is the concept of forgiveness, a major part of Christianity but foreign to Islam. Indeed, it probably makes little if any sense to Muslims, who likely believe in retribution for the wrongs done to them (I confess to some ignorance about Islam, so I can’t say that for sure).

Moreover, in this case the Copts understand and accept something that we American Christians often don’t: Following Jesus may very well cost you your life. We’re often the first to complain about mistreatment from the world when He Himself said it was inevitable — so, why worry about it? Heck, He would know about unjust treatment, since He was falsely convicted of a crime against the state and hanged on a cross.

Here’s what might be happening: The Copts didn’t react the way most people expect, and that distinction is turning people’s heads around in that part of the world. And the dictum “The tree of faith is watered with the blood of martyrs” truly applies here, for the reason that if someone were willing to die for something it must be worth it.

Will the Copts’ stance sway Islamic terrorists? It actually might. Remember, the church grew rapidly as a result of Stephen’s stoning and eventually captured a anti-Christian Pharisee named Saul, with the Roman name of Paul, who witnessed the proceedings but, of course, later became the greatest missionary the world has ever known.

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