Christians have been persecuted for centuries; the sad reality is that it continues to this day. Iraq is just one of the countries where the persecution of Christians has been on the increase, to the point that it currently ranks second in the World Watch List where it is most difficult to be a Christian. In this story a Brisbane pastor shares his visit to Iraq and explains why an Iraqi Christian man thanks God for ISIS.
He left for Iraq in tears, because he was leaving his family behind. Then he left Iraq in tears, because he’d met brothers and sisters in Christ, who were showing incredible faith in the face of terrible suffering and persecution.
This was the pastor’s first mission trip, arranged by Open Doors Australia, an organisation dedicated to bringing Bibles to persecuted Christians. He thought he was going to a third-world country, where people had always been poor. But he soon learned that the people there were much like us. Just two years ago, they’d owned houses, cars and businesses.
But now, he said, they’re living in glorified containers. They’ve lost everything. Everything but faith. The pastor said he’d never seen anyone stronger in their faith than those Christians, who refuse to give up on God, even though they might have to give up their lives for Him.
A former Iraqi businessman told the pastor how he’d always been just a Sunday Christian. Once ISIS* came, he had to decide where he stood. Was he a follower of Christ or not? Was he prepared to put his own life, and the life of his family on the line by acknowledging he was a Christian? The man knew that his decision may lead to death? He made the decision to stand for his faith and to live a life that is fully committed to God. “I thank God for ISIS” he said. The same man explained that ISIS had achieved in weeks what the church hadn’t managed in years. They’d brought unity.
The pastor came home with a challenge for the western church. Whatever their denomination, the people he saw in Iraq are dying for Jesus Christ. “We need to get the body over here unified,” he said. “Because as soon as we get our focus off what divides us, and on to what joins us together, we’re going to become a really relevant part of this society, and start changing Australia.”
Psalm 133 says that when we live together in unity, God commands his blessing – live forever more. Imagine the change we could make, if we were united in living for Christ.
*ISIS: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” – Hebrews 13:14 NLT
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” – 1 Peter 2:11-12 NKJV
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” – Psalm 133 NIV