Thursday, June 24, 2010

Millstones anyone?

Every Thursday, VOM-Canada releases The Persecution & Prayer Alert, a news and prayer digest on the persecuted Church. This week, the stories were especially difficult as the victims were children and an elderly man. How does one respond to such injustice, such brutality? (You can read the Persecution & Prayer alert here.)

Twyla Penner, a VOM Ambassador and wife of our Webmaster (Twyla also works on the site), wrote the following in response to this week's Prayer Alert. I hope it will challenge you as it challenged me to not recoil from the horror of persecution, but to draw ever closer in prayer to both its victims and perpetrators.

When The Voice of the Martyrs publishes its material, no one pretends that we're handing out warm fuzzies. The stories we have to tell are hard hitting and in your face. We make no apology for that. In fact, we strongly believe that you need to hear these stories. When there's an 11-year-old boy who is living in iron chains and subjected to starvation and harsh slavery,we believe that you need to hear about it. When that same boy is told that he'll have his freedom if he will only turn to Islam, we're driven to speak out. When a 14-year-old girl sits in horrified silence because of her rapists, we cannot remain silent.

I'm not sure how you react when you hear of things like this. I realize that your reaction might be to turn away. It's too much to take. Yes, it is. These young people agonize in torment; it is too much. Do you want to rescue them? Hold them? Pray for them? I must admit, one of my first responses is to look around for the nearest millstone -- I'd be most happy to secure one to the necks of the perpetrators and be there to push them off of a cliff into the deepest ocean. Didn't Jesus say that even that would be better for them than His judgment? I think my response is somewhat natural.

Then I have to take a step back and look at the whole context of scripture.

1. The "worse than a millstone" judgment is God's to dole out. I have no business trying to step into His shoes.

2. God offers even the abusers His unconditional forgiveness and grace. That's a hard pill to swallow. If these men turn to God, we'll be spending eternity with them, and so will the faithful kids and youth that have been so deeply scarred by them.

3. I'm called to do the same. Wait a minute! I have to offer love, forgiveness and grace? Absolutely! If you've ever been abused or watched someone you love be abused, you know that this is not only impossible in ourselves, it doesn't even seem right to forgive. Abusers deserve the millstone! Yes, they absolutely do; but quite frankly, all of us deserve God's judgment. Granted, most of us have never committed such heinous acts. We have, however, offended our Holy God and only live and breathe by His grace. Abusers can and do change. To adamantly state that they can never change is to declare that their hellish acts are greater than God. Jesus commanded us to pray for them. I swallow hard, ask for God's grace and do so.

A question that is repeatedly asked by the abused is echoed in the Psalms: "Where is God in all of this?" He's right here, in you and me. If we've accepted His free gift and allowed Him to take control of our lives, His Spirit is living in us.When we, through His Spirit, sit with the rape victim and patiently wait for her to muster the strength to talk, we are God's heart and ears to her. When we tousle the lice infested head of, and embrace the boy that knows only heartache, we become Jesus' arms to him. When we hold the hand of a child who has lost her Daddy and allow her tears to soak our own hands, it's Jesus' hands that hold hers. Taking this even further, when we look the abuser in the eye and honestly tell him or her, "Jesus loves you!" we express the grace that motivated Jesus to agonize on the cross. He's given to us the task of taking His presence to others. In that sense, will we allow God to be "right there"? Let's leave the millstones to God and get busy bringing His presence to the darkest places in people's lives.

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