In a recent interview, the Anglican Vicar of Baghdad recounted an incident between ISIS militants and four Christian teenagers, all under 15. Multiple times the militants demanded that they say the words of conversion to Islam which they refused to do by saying “No, we love Yasua (Jesus).” Ultimately, they were beheaded because of their refusal.*
Yes, it’s a sad story. Yes, its a story of courage. Yes, these things should not be happening. Yes, folks that loudly lament any inkling religion being forced upon them because of a prayer, or a song, or a t-shirt don’t have the slightest notion of what real force is. Yes, Jesus predicted that His followers would suffer persecution. I agree with all of that. But there is a real world application for us who comfortably live half a world away from these very real front lines.
How often during our day are we tempted, or offended, or selfish, or gossiping, or indulgent, or angry, or jealous over material things, or judgemental, or critical? Wouldn’t it be better to follow the example of these young martyrs for Jesus and say, “No, I love Jesus.” Or spin it 180 degrees. When prompted to share the good news, or pray in public, or give resources, or get up for church on Sunday morning, or when there is an opportunity to serve, or when you are choosing between the Bible and the remote control, or when life has to be put on hold because of the need of another. Wouldn’t it be better to again follow their example and say, “Yes, I love Jesus.”
Jesus warned, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62, NASB95) Our hands are firmly on the plow when we proclaim “No, I love Jesus” instead of following what is prudent, what our heart wants, where our noses lead, what logic and analysis determine, what our feeling demands, or the appetites of our bodies desires. “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37–39, NASB95) Those four teenagers overwhelmingly conquered when confronted with the greatest of evil and the strongest of temptations. Their stand was simple, “We love Jesus.” I don’t know about you but that sure does put today’s petty problems in perspective.