Good Monday Morning!
Last night was week 3 of our Amazing Race- Persecuted Church Edition Series. You can check out some pictures below of Electives and our game of knee volleyball before youth started:
Our featured our country this week was Iraq. Here are some quick stats on the country of Iraq and the conditions that Christians there are living in:
86/100 EXTREME PERSECUTION
Leader: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Government: Parliamentary Democracy Population: 38,654,000 (230,000 Christians— less that 1%)
Source of Persecution:
Main Religion: Islam Islamic Oppression
Christians have lived in Iraq for two millennia but are currently on the verge of extinction. Many have fled areas controlled by ISIS and other Islamic extremists. The overall persecution situation in Iraq is characterized by impunity, the threat of attacks and second- class treatment by the authorities. Historical and Protestant Christian communities are seriously affected by persecution, especially from radical Islamic movements, authorities and non-Christian leaders. Communities of converts to Christianity from Islam are the most severely persecuted, especially by their own families.
To help Christians suffering from persecution in Iraq, Open Doors works with local partners to provide the training, Bibles, microloans, building materials, crisis relief and other support they need to remain as lights in their war-torn nation.
Last night’s Scripture was Matthew 5:43-48NIV:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
It’s easy to love those who love us and pray for those who treat us nicely. This is how the majority of culture operates, but Jesus gives a new challenge here: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What this means for us today is this— show God’s love and pray for those who bully you, make fun of you, are rude to you, who betray you, etc.
The second part of Vs. 45 says that God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. This means that God is the God of the “good” people and the ones many may consider “bad”. He loves us all equally as much. When we show love to those who mistreat us, we are showing them the same love that Jesus showed us on the cross instead of responding with the same type of attitude like they expect us too. When we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we are choosing to walk in the freedom and joy that God intends for us to walk in instead of allowing others to control by causing bitterness in our hearts.
Verse 48 tells us to “be perfect”. The Greek word for “perfect” means completeness. Jesus gave us these instructions to help us live in and experience the complete freedom, love, and joy that God offers us through a relationship with him.
If you’re struggling with bitterness towards those who have hurt you or wronged you, I encourage you to choose to love and pray for them. The truth is that people who hurt others are typically hurting themselves. Instead of allowing yourself to be robbed of the joy of the Lord because of bitterness, choose prayer and forgiveness!
Make sure to take about three minutes to watch an encouraging video on Christians in Iraq on how they respond to the persecution they face.
See you next week!