The shooting in Arizona this past week placed two things solidly in my mind; the fragility of life, and the veritable blessing it is to live in a place free from widespread violence. For many of our brothers and sisters in different communities around the globe, however, reminders of life’s fragility are unneeded and freedom from violence is novelty.
The Coptic Christian Church in Egypt is one such community. On New Years, a suicide bomber attacked a midnight mass, killing 21 worshipers and injuring 97 more. This act of violence was the latest in a long history of Muslim/Christian hostility evidenced by shootings and riots. Some Christians struck out in violent protest, others prayed, and all suffered at the hands of continuing atrocity.
Muslims in Egypt responded to the bombing and subsequent hostilities by attending Christmas Mass last Thursday, serving as human shields against the cruelty of a radical Muslim minority. Thousands stood shoulder to shoulder with Christians in their services, even though the threat of death remained very real. Their presence paid as much tribute to the Prince of Peace as the Christmas celebration itself; after all, it was the Prince that said “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (c.f. John 15).
From assassination attempts to slander, hostile combat to coercive quarreling, border disputation to vicious strife; our earth is filled with violence. The question is not how we can avoid this violence, but what will we do when faced with it? Will we reciprocate evil, or will we be (like the Egyptian Muslims) self-sacrificial symbols of strength and love?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
As you read this verse, do you hear God’s voice beckoning us, his children? We are the chosen proponents of peace, the force for reconciliation in a terribly estranged world. If Muslims sense the need to sacrifice themselves for the sake of peace, how strongly should we? If Christ’s commands to love others sacrificially are not enough, surely the example set by these men and women will stoke something within our hearts!
Brothers and sisters, we have an unbelievably awesome calling; only let us live up to it. Join me in following Christ as we live to restore relationships, preserve life, pray for wholeness, and become blessings to everyone we encounter; friends and enemies alike.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.