Matthew 5:44 - (Jesus said) "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (KJV).
Over the years I have run into many people who think pastors and priests are always men of great faith. Now it is true that many who wear the cloth have a wondrous and wonderful relationship with their Lord. I have met and stood in awe of these preachers.
On the other hand, and I can only speak for myself here, I have also encountered laypeople whose faith makes mine appear minuscule in comparison. When we get to heaven I will count myself lucky if I can see their mansion with a large telescope.
In the list of people with great faiths, I would have to include many of the Christian Copts of Egypt.
This past Palm Sunday, when our children were waving palm fronds and shouting out their "Hallelujahs," the little ones of two Coptic congregations in Egypt were ducking for cover as suicide bombers destroyed churches, families, friendships, and futures.
The death count was 49. The wounded were numbered over 100.
Since those reports came out, I've been doing some soul-searching, trying to decide how I would react if that had been my church -- my family -- who had been blown up by fanatics of another religion, whose hearts were filled with hatred. Below is what I felt.
My very first emotion was a desire for revenge, you know, an eye for an eye, a life for a life. Thankfully, there were too many passages of Scripture which clearly condemned vengeance, and very quickly I was forced to abandon that point of view.
My second thought was if I can't have revenge, at least I can have justice. Unfortunately, the death of the innocent Savior and the persecution and murder of most of His disciples makes it clear: the scales of justice don't always get balanced during this life.
In contrast to what I felt was a Coptic woman, no, make that a new Coptic widow who has said, "I am praying for the perpetrators. I am asking the Lord to move them so they may reconsider what they are doing." Another Coptic lady said she has "already forgiven" those who had masterminded the murderous explosions.
I am moved and impressed. So are many others.
Reading about the carnage and hearing no call for revenge, one individual wrote, "Coptic Christians are made of steel." Well, maybe not steel, exactly, it's probably more like equal measures of faith, courage, and Christian commitment -- commitment to the Savior who gave His life for their redemption and salvation.
As for me, all I can do is pray for these brothers and sisters, stand in awe of what the Holy Spirit is doing through them, and repeat the comment of the Savior who, having seen a centurion's witness, declared to the crowd that followed Him, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith" (Luke 7:9b).
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, guard and protect those who are being persecuted. If possible, turn the heart and hands of those who hate them, and let lives be lived in peace. This I ask in the Savior's Name. Amen.
Today's devotion is based on an article written on Good Friday by Jim Dally for Focus on the Family. The website where the parent article can be found is: jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/cross-christ-makes-forgiveness-possible-palm-sunday-bombings/
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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