Guest post by my wife Suzy Tawfik
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” -Revelation 6:10-11
Take up your cross and follow Me
Immediately upon hearing that my fellow Copts were beheaded, the humanity within me reacted with anger and frustration, tired of the innocent bloodshed, the pain, and the emotional turmoil. In the words of Tertullian (3rd Century),
“If the martyrs of the whole world were put on one arm of the balance and the martyrs of Egypt on the other, the balance would tilt in favor of the Egyptians.”
After thousands of years of martyrdom, we’d hope for a break. But the reality is, there can’t be a break. There must be tribulation and crosses to carry. Otherwise, we are not really following Christ. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Our faith wouldn’t grow otherwise. Our hearts wouldn’t become bigger and stronger to be able to include even those who persecute us.
Love conquers all
The struggle to love our enemies and forgive is without a doubt one of the greatest struggles in life. But as Christ said, there is no reward in loving only those who love you (Matthew 5:46). It makes perfect sense honestly. When we do something that requires us to widen our heart, it may be painful and difficult, but in the end results in a larger heart that can love more unconditionally by God’s grace. If we love only those who love us, our hearts remain the same size. We truly gain nothing from hatred, as it is merely fire battling fire. It only creates a larger fire. All over my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed a medley of reactions to the beheadings from friends. Some say love and forgive the enemy. Others say the perpetrators don’t deserve forgiveness or even to be called human beings. We must love our enemies and forgive the sins of others because
- that was what we were commanded to do by Christ and
- that is what He Himself did for us.
We all have our share of dirt, so let GOD be the Judge. I think that a priest from a Coptic Church in Florida (Fr. Shenouda Kalleeny) had the best response to the murderers,
“Still we love you, because you’re part of God’s creation. We’re going to pray for you. What you did to us – you didn’t harm us but you harmed yourself.”
We must rise above our humanity to truly be able to exhibit our CHRISTIANITY.
My thoughts on the beheadings
I guess bittersweet is the best way to put it. Unfortunately, it’s so much easier to hear about people dying when it’s not someone you know or are not affiliated with. I did not personally know any of these men but I feel so connected to them through our race but even more so, our faith. THEIR faith. I am so unbelievably inspired by how these men, my brave, courageous brothers, spoke volumes of the gospel through their mere SILENCE.
“As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:36).
When I see them, I see true examples of Christ; submission to the point of death. I couldn’t bear to watch the video, but as my husband watched next to me, I heard them cry, “Ya Rabbi, Yasooah” (My Lord, Jesus) and “Yasooah” (Jesus) as their throats were about to be cut. Just hearing that made my hands sweat and broke me. Their crying out to their King and their God at their last breath pierces my heart in such a way and I can’t help but think of Christ crying out to the Father in His last moments.
Clearing your vision
What a way to start Lent, right? A true eye-opener about what really matters in life and puts things into perspective. I am very humbled by these men, as they testified what it means to be real Christians. To LIVE the Word, not just to hear and read and not act. These were simple men who left their country in order to have better lives. How much do WE take for granted? How often do we express our gratitude to God for the abundance He gives us? We sit here complaining about how we don’t have this or that, when in actuality we are all so blessed compared to people in their shoes. And ironically these men had little in this world, but they just left this life with the most we could ever want; with what many of us aspire to have and most likely will have to struggle tremendously to achieve — crowns of glory and tremendous favor in God’s eyes, in addition to an instant one-way ticket to heaven.
Actions > words
I wish I had a morsel of the virtues exhibited by the hostages. Their simple lives and humility. Their courage and living faith. And I think to myself, “What would I have done in their position? Would I have readily and gladly accepted my gruesome fate, genuinely bearing witness to the Christian name and knowing the reward in store…. Or…would I have denied Him in cowardice and in fear?”
I think to myself, “Christ, give me the true willingness to die for You, as I am weak.”
Now, ask yourselves the same question: What would YOU do?? How many of us would 100% be willing to die for Christ?? Many say they would…but if given certain circumstances, would they? It’s not like these men knew what they were getting into…. I’m sure they were unaware that in their quest for better lives they would end up in the hands of such ruthless people. Yet, they chose Christ. How many of us would fall short, convert or deny God?? Would you be a REAL Christian if put on the spot?
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17).
The hour is coming
Death is nearer than we think. That is definitely one major thing I learned from this event. Whether we like it or not, we don’t know when our time will run out. Did these hostages see their deaths coming so soon? We may not live to see another day. God knows. We need to be prepared nonetheless. Where is our focus and our priorities in life? Are we serving God or are we serving the world and its pleasures? Are we using our time wisely? Have we repented? If the Angel of Death came now to take you, would you go willingly and readily or beg for more time and say you are not ready? We get ONE life, ONE chance. Fasting and prayers can move mountains. Let’s really take this time during Lent to strive to make big changes in our lives, changes that will be pleasing to God.
God delivers His people
At the end of the day, I am so soooo proud to be Coptic. So proud to be part of one of the earliest Christian churches, still holding on, holding strong, clinging to Christ our haven and refuge, and our Rock on sinking sand. We’ve been through fire and bloodshed and our soldiers will only continue to fight for our faith and our God in the army of Christ. I love how these 21 courageous men on their knees had their backs to the world, their backs to death, and saw Christ lying ahead, waiting to give them Life.
“And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them” (Isaiah 19:20).
Pray for Egypt and for all Christians everywhere. May God repose their souls, be with their loved ones, and Glory be to God forever.