"The seed of the early church was watered by the blood of the martyrs" -- Author Unknown. Now, it could be argued that this quote found its origination from Apologeticus by Tertullian in which Tertullian states, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." (Apologeticus, Ch. 50). Though Tertullian would ultimately be labeled a heretic due to his association with the excommunicated Montanus-- a 2nd Century leader in the church at Phyrgia who claimed to be Holy Spirit incarnate -- his words still ring true, especially today.
I started #MCM or Man Crush Mondays as a way to jokingly expose my friends, fellow bloggers, and followers to those saints of the faith who have gone to be with the Lord, stalwarts who have profoundly impacted my life, theology, and ministry with their writings and, ultimately, their very lives. A normal #MCM would cover men ranging form the likes of Early Church Fathers such as Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo to the very Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Today's #MCM, however, will deal with a much nearer, much more sobering reality. A little over a year ago, social media was set ablaze with the video of twenty-one Coptic (Egyptian) Christians who were systematically slaughtered for their faith by the terrorist group, ISIS. ISIS is well known for murdering men and women in grizzly fashion. Simply Google ISIS Murders. The query will return a gut wrenching 2.6 million plus returns in roughly three-tenths of a second, many of whose headlines are more than enough to cause the heart to shutter at the images the mind conjurers.
Make no mistake: All such instances in which the image bearers of God are hatefully removed form the earth are atrocities. Heart breaking atrocities. There is no comfort in the midst of such great sorrow. And it is ok for you and I to beg that the Lord's justice be swift and exacting through governmental military action (see Romans 13, 1 Peter 2, 1 Thess 4). When the peace of God is violated with such recklessness, and the people of the Cross long for a complete shalom, the only prayer left to be prayed as we await for God to show Himself as sovereignly Just and Justifier over His creation is simply, "Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus!"
Though I mourn the loss of any life, The Twenty-One carry an altogether different weight. Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, these men weren't just another political statement snuffed out by an evil terrorist group. These are my brothers... these are your brothers. The families who are in mourning are your families who are in mourning. They are our family.
Due to our individual unity with Christ, we are corporately experiencing the reality of having one foot in both worlds -- one realm in which the war against evil is raging, leading us to grieve those twenty-one precious souls stolen from the people of the Cross and longing for justice; the other, a reality in which these twenty-one mighty men are ushered into the very presence of Jesus right now. And, when we as the people of the Cross worship the one Living King of the Cross, The Lord Christ, Holy Spirit lifts us into corporate worship with these twenty-one, and both worlds find rest in the Kingdom already and the Kingdom not yet, for the King is alive and active in both worlds.
I'm not certain I will ever look at Hebrews 11 and 12 the same. In Hebrews 11, the author of Hebrews takes note of men such as these precious twenty-one:
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Read Hebrews 11:37-38 again. Let it saturate and nourish your soul as it has mine. The twenty-one are men of whom this world is not worthy. ISIS is not worthy of the way in which the twenty-one died. Nor are we worthy of the way in which the twenty-one lived. Only the Lord Christ is worthy of both.
Time may have failed the author of Hebrews to mention those who make up the great cloud of witnesses, both history past and history future. But it should not fail us in the present to remember the names and faces of those braves souls who, as their lives were in the midst of being extinguished, commended their allengience to the Lord Jesus. The twenty-one refused to waiver and renounce their faith, knowing that they would be raised to a better life.