In an unspeakable act of hatred and violence, ten young Muslim men plotted, planned and savagely tortured these brothers for three hours ultimately killing all three. Despite a general lack of sympathy for the Christian martyrs among government officials, all of the assailants in this case are now in police custody, scheduled to be tried as terrorists. The fact is, persecution of the Church continues in much of the world today.
However, it has been the courage of these and other Turkish Christians that has proven so inspiring. In an act that hit the front page in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Geske, wife of the slain German missionary expressed her forgiveness for the assailants in a television interview. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. “Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).
Included in the letter was an appeal from Turkish pastor Fikret Bocek to Christians around the world, in which he said:
Please pray for the Church in Turkey. Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverance. The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.
This is real courage in the wake of real persecution! The idea of courage seems to be less and less understood in the contemporary American church as a quality even related to the Christian life. The erosion of male and female distinctiveness into one androgynous human species that political-correctness and radical feminism promotes, has only emasculated men and confused women.
Furthermore, an emasculated Church does not encourage men especially, to a bold and courageous assertion of biblical truth and justice in a culture determined to suppress that truth and act unjustly. The result has been the increasing marginalization of the American Church, degeneration of our culture, and the conformity of Christians to the world. Gone, it seems, is the fearless press of the Church into spiritually hostile territory which marked earlier generations.
One of the guiding verses in my life and ministry is Micah 6:8 – He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Scripture has revealed the heart of God and defined what is “good” and conversely what is “bad.” We know injustice when we see it and “what the Lord requires of us” is to oppose it at every turn regardless of the cost. The fallen world, in which we live, is full of brutality and suffering and the Church is called to dispense mercy or “kindness” and sometimes this provision of mercy requires us to stand against the masses. This most assuredly demands courage, especially when the whole current of this age conspires against the character and desires of God.
For too long, we have been plied with a popularized image of Jesus Christ as a shrinking, mild-mannered pacifist, but Scripture gives us no such picture. Jesus, I contend, was “a man’s man.” The greatest example of his extraordinary courage and strength is given to us in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was not oblivious to the pain and suffering that was to come nor was he supernaturally immune to it. He knew he would bear the full horror of it while bound in human flesh — all of the pain, rejection, and death — and yet he went willingly, knowing full well why he had been sent by the Father. He was to carry out the Father’s mission even unto death. This is the model by which we also should live our lives in service to God, the world, and our neighbor.
I think most of us no longer see the world as being embroiled in a great spiritual conflict of which we are to be a part, but instead we see the world as including conflict of which we want to avoid. My friends, this is cowardice! Martin Luther called avoidance of this battle treason. These two terms used to carry great shame in our culture. Alas, that is no longer the case.
What is needed is grit – like that of Jesus, the Apostles, and the “great cloud of witnesses” such as these brothers and sisters in Turkey. What is grit you may ask? Grit is determination or strength of character that stands, regardless of the cost, upon one’s convictions. It is a psychological and emotional “toughness” that cannot be dissuaded or discouraged. Grit is when men and women of conviction resolve to act, intervene and stand for truth, justice, and mercy regardless of the personal cost. This “grit” is not exclusive to martyrdom; it also applies to the courage and resolve necessary to persevere in a relationship with those hostile to the Truth or to act with charity toward those with whom we disagree. Practically this means being a “missional” Christian to that profane or offensive neighbor and co-worker, antagonistic boss or teacher, or the homosexual couple down the street. It means that we do not shrink from those who are lost because they make us uncomfortable. We do not fear the world! Instead, by God’s grace, we muster the toughness to endure for their sake and His glory, putting aside our discomfort and loving them as Jesus would.
The tragedy today is that despite the fact that doing so will likely not cost one their life; too many are still unwilling to take up the cause of Christ to the extent we should. It is grit or basic toughness that seems so lacking in the Church. We have become soft, being ruled by our desire for comfort and fear of conflict. Nobody, it seems, wants to go against the stream for fear of the cost. But I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s great quote, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” We have been made alive in Christ and we have been left on mission in the world to bear witness to God’s redemptive grace and mercy. It is time for the American Church to cultivate grit and toughness for the sake of truth, justice and mercy in the name of Jesus. May we be possessed with the same strength and courage that our Turkish brothers and sisters have demonstrated, if only to put Christ and His Kingdom first in our [safe, secure and comfortable] lives.
© 2007 by S. Michael Craven
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S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to the renewal and reformation of society through the renewal and reformation of the Church. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.battlefortruth.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.