A Reflection on the 21 Christian Martyrs Murdered by IS Who Died with the Name of their Savior, Yeshua, on their Lips:
Romans 8:28 assures us "that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." and so when I saw the way my Egyptian brothers in Christ were called upon to suffer and die for the name of Jesus, I found consolation in the fact that even this great evil will ultimately be used for good. So with that idea in mind here are some of the ways it seems to me that atrocities like this one could be used by God for good:
1) Because death cannot hurt them, it's sting having been forever removed by the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:55), all that those evil Jihadists ultimately did was usher those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus into the presence of their Savior. There beyond the veil of death they saw their Savior face to face (1 Cor. 13:12) and heard the words they longed to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt. 5:21). Now they dwell amongst those who "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb", who neither "hunger anymore nor thirst anymore" and from whose eyes, God has forever wiped away every tear. (Rev. 7:14,16,17)
I hope that this will have the good effect of reminding the church here in the west not to be afraid to suffer for the sake of Christ, because nothing, not even death by the sword can separate us from the love of Christ:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)
2) It starkly illustrates the difference between Islam and Christianity as no theological lecture ever could. Clad In black, we see men with knives in their hands who are about to kill for their god, Allah. Kneeling before them, clad in orange, we see men who are about to die for their Savior, Jesus Christ. One religion is, and has been since its inception, the religion of "Go and Kill" while the other is, and has been since its inception, the religion of "Come and Die". The founder of one religion decapitated those who disagreed with him by his own hand and instructed his followers to do likewise, "When you meet the unbelievers, strike off their heads, and when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly..." (Sura 47:4) the founder of the other religion died for those who disagreed with Him, and instructed his followers to "...love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44)
3) Because it reminds us that suffering for the name of Christ unifies and strengthens the church in ways that nothing else can. In times when the church is not suffering, we are tempted to separate and bicker, and rebuild the walls of separation that divide believers demographically and racially. We forget in those times that in Christ, "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (Col. 3:11) but in moments like the one above, we see as never before that we really are one in Christ suffering together that we might be glorified together (Rom. 8:17) In that picture on the beach they really "are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) and therefore all equally "joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17).
4) Because we are reminded that suffering for righteousness sake is a mark of blessing, not a curse and that we should be willing to embrace it, as the Apostles embraced suffering for the sake of Christ (Acts 5:41). It also should remind us that the meaning of the Greek word "Martyr" is actually "witness". Often the church is prone to forget that the strongest witness to the truth of the Christian is our willingness to patiently endure suffering for the sake of Jesus. Peter's words regarding persecution in his time are even more true in ours, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled." But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:14-15)
And these are just the obvious ways that immediately occurred to me that this evil can be used by God for good. There are undoubtedly many, many more. So let's pray that even as darkness increases, that the gospel light would be seen to shine even more brightly because of it!