Genocide is being perpetrated throughout the Middle East by militant Islamists such as ISIS, Hamas, and Al-Quaeda, and every one of these groups is showing its religion’s true colors.
In Mosul, Iraq, a millinea-old Christian community has been systematically and completely wiped out. In addition to massive losses of human life, history has lost irreplaceable churches, libraries, and manuscripts. To carry out this heinous act, the terrorists went about marking every known Christian’s home and building with an Arabic “nun” (pictured), which is the first letter in a centuries-old Islamic label for Christians meaning “Nazarene.” Here is one Christian’s response to bearing this hate-filled mark:
They mean it as a mark of shame, we must then wear it as a mark of hope: Yes, we are in the army of the Resurrected Nazarene, the Master and Lord of the Universe, the Man who is God Almighty, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. You may kill our brethren and expel them, but we Christians will never go away.
Paul, in the first century, likewise faced persecution and derision for the message that he preached, the message of reconciliation through Jesus Christ. But Paul was not deterred. Paul felt no shame. In a letter to the Church in Rome Paul wrote,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:16)
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he knew of its power to save. He knew that it could save everyone who believes, even those who persecute the Church of Christ. Before his conversion and he was still called Saul, Paul himself was a zealous persecutor of Christians. Paul had tasted the radical nature of grace.
It should be our fervent prayer that these modern-day Sauls might be saved. We should pray that these who are so zealous and yet so completely deceived might turn from their wickedness and turn to Jesus. We should pray that these who—just as Jesus predicted—kill Christians because they think they are offering a service to God (John 16:2) might instead join the household of faith as modern-day Pauls and be zealous proclaimers of the Peace of Christ, the peace that has been made between God and man through our Lord Jesus Christ that enables us to live peacefully with our brothers.
Until then, let us not shy away from the same label that our Lord bore. Today, I am a Nazarene.