Tag Archive | persecution

#CharlestonStrong

Emanuel AME2

A week ago, on the evening of June 17, Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — one of the oldest AME churches in the nation — with the alleged intention of starting a race war. Hiding a gun in his backpack, he sat and talked with parishioners during their mid-week Bible study. Approximately an hour into the study, Roof pulled out his gun, and began firing. When he left the building, 8 people were dead, with one critically injured who later died at the hospital.

Within hours of the shooting, reports began to fill the airways and internet of the tragic events at “Mother Emanuel“. With 9 people dead and the subject at large, tensions were high as people already began to assume that the shooting was racially motivated. The next day, Dylann Roof was apprehended in Shelby, North Carolina — some 245 miles away. He was returned to Charleston where he was promptly charged with the murders. As news crews and TV personalities descended upon Charleston, and images of Ferguson and Baltimore still vivid in the minds of people across the nation, many on the outside of the situation wondered if this tragedy would spark yet more civil and racial unrest.

The answer came on June 19 when, in his bond hearing, Roof was addressed by the people he had deeply wounded — the people of Emanuel AME and the families of the victims. They spoke of the hurt and pain he had caused in their lives — of the wounds born of his act of hatred. Yet, in spite of the pain in their hearts and voices, they had an overwhelming message for Dylann Roof…

“We forgive you.”

In the following days, as reporters broadcast from outside of the church, what they experienced was a wounded community coming together to worship and heal.

As the “usual suspects” of racial division and disunity began to sing their familiar song of prejudice and fear, citizens of the Charleston area joined hands and hearts across racial divides and came together over the next few days in churches throughout Charleston, including the following Sunday at Emanuel AME, where Reverend Norvel Goff had a message for the world…

“A lot of folk expected us to do something strange, and break out in a riot.
Well, they just don’t know us.
They just don’t know us because we are a people of faith. And we believe that when we put our voices and heads together, working for a common good, there is NOTHING we can not accomplish together in the name of Jesus!”

As politicians and activists began attempting to re-invigorate the “anti-gun” message, the message coming from inside the walls of Emanuel AME Church was one of love, forgiveness, and faith. It was also a message of warfare against the REAL enemy…

“… For those of us that are here this morning, I want you to know that  because the doors of ‘Mother Emanuel’ are open on THIS Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth that no weapon formed against us shall prosper… Some wanted to divide the race — black and white and brown — but no weapon formed against us shall prosper!” ~ Rev. Norvel Goff

There will always be people of every color in America. Because of our differences, and because we live in a fallen world, there will always be INDIVIDUALS — like Dylann Roof — who have a heart filled with racial hatred. However, I do not believe that America is a racist country. In a country with a population of over 300 million, you cannot ascribe to an entire population or people-group the actions or attitudes of an individual or minority. This is not the America of the 1960’s. It is time that all of us — red, yellow, black, and white — take a stand against the voices of fear and division that would try to use these types of tragic events for nefarious and self-serving purposes. It is time for we, as a united people, to stand up and say with one voice…

“No more!”

It is time that we, the church, follow the example of Jesus in heated and uncomfortable deed, and not just in air-conditioned and comfortable word. For the people of Emanuel AME to stand there, two days after such a tragic event, look into the face of the twisted, hate-filled heart that took away the lives of their beloved family members and friends, and say, “We forgive you” — It put the love of Jesus in full color, front-row view for the entire world to see. While those with no understanding of such love asked the question, “Why did God allow this to happen?”, Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of slain Pastor Daniel Simmons, summed it up in an incredible way on Fox New’s Hannity program…

“God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

What we have witnessed in the people of Emanuel AME is the example of Jesus…

  • In the shadow of His inevitable death, He shared a message that said…

“… Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and PERSECUTE you.” ~ Matthew 5:44

  • In the agony of His own undeserved death, He reached out to a thief dying next to Him and assured him…

“… Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43

  • As He hung between Heaven and Earth, Jesus pleaded for forgiveness for the very people who had put Him on the cross…

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” ~Luke 23:34

It is an example that the worldly mind will never understand.

Forgiveness silences the critics.

Forgiveness takes the ammunition away from the agitator.

Forgiveness leaves the voices of hatred and assumed offense in stunned silence.

In the aftermath of the events in Ferguson and Baltimore, protesters and politicians were front and center in the media for weeks. In the case of the acquitted officer in Ferguson, although he was proven to be innocent, the false narrative of the tragic event was still being advanced by people with no regard for the truth.

But in Charleston, forgiveness took the teeth out of the story.

Anger never got the front page.

The root of bitterness never found fertile soil to grow.

The forces of hatred and racism never got enough traction to have to be reckoned with.

At the end of the day, Jesus showed up in the hearts, faces, voices, and actions of a group of hurting people who understood love and forgiveness are stronger than hate.

And to those who are trying to keep the story alive by focusing on some of the fringe issues like the Confederate flag or more gun control — please — let’s keep the story where it belongs, for now…

On the lives of the “Emanuel 9”.

If we do that, we might find the message of healing and forgiveness so absent in our culture today.

The message of what it means — REALLY means — to love like Jesus.

For THAT is the message a hurting world needs to hear.

Make A Difference (Ducks & Martyrs… pt 2)

RPLast week on my blog, I discussed Ducks, Martyrs, & Suiting Up for the Wrong Fight, in which I talked about how many Christians in our society are using the power of social media to wage war against anti-Christian bias in pop-culture; namely, the recent controversy concerning Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. While standing for solid Christian principles and against the “spirit of Antichrist” that exists in the media is commendable, it appears that we do so at the expense of very real, life-and-death persecution going on in other places in the world. To paraphrase one person that responded to my article, we as Christians can fight more than one fight at a time.

So… why don’t we? Why are we not more vocal about the plight of Christians elsewhere?

I understand that, when the media blacks-out such activity, such stories have a tendency to slip from our radar. However, with so many alternate media sources today, and limitless resources on the internet, there are many ways to, not just stay informed, but to actually make a difference. Paul had this to say in II Corinthians 10:3-6 (I like how The Message puts it)…

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

With that said, let’s looks at a few ways we can make a difference…

Get informed.

Sometimes it takes a little effort on our part, but by simply doing a Google search (Christian persecution 2013, killing Christians, Christians killed in ) you can find limitless stories about the plight of Christians around the world. While I understand that you cannot believe every single thing you read on the internet, there are many, many reputable resources that are telling the truth about what is happening to our Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Pray.

As II Corinthians 10:4 says (NKJV):

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.

We must diligently fight the war against the forces of darkness in the place where we can do the most good… on our knees. We must commit ourselves to fasting and prayer for the toppling of governments that support the killing of Christians, the defeat of radical Islamic groups around the world (including on our own soil), and for the courage of our political leaders to stand up in the face of such activity and say that we will not support or aid any nation that participates in these atrocities.

Vote.

We the people have a powerful weapon against the abuses and apathy of those in the power-centers and decision-making halls of our nation… it’s called the ballot. It is time for we as a Christian nation to stand up and say to our elected officials, “We sent you to Washington to serve. You were elected on the assumption and promise that you were going to do what is best for our nation. If you are unwilling to do this, we’ll put someone in office that will.”
What is in the best interest of America is following the tenants of Scripture, and standing up in the face of tyranny, not just in our nation, but around the world. This includes suspending aid for governments guilty of participating in, or endorsing, the persecution and slaughter of Christians. This means demanding that our leaders hold accountable rogue and radical Islamic governments who violate the rights of Christians (and others).

Get involved.

You may be limited in what you can do as an individual or even a church. However, there are plenty of Christian and humanitarian organizations that are on the front lines, making a difference. Do what you can to support those that are “fighting the good fight” with your prayers and resources. Groups like Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, Compassion International, and others do much to provide relief in countries hard hit by poverty, war, and persecution. Our own ministry (Ron Phillips Ministries) works among the poor in countries like Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

Let your voice be heard.

Most of us have access to social media on a regular basis (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Use your influence to help draw attention to what is going on as you become aware. All it takes is a few well-timed posts to get the ball rolling, and to raise awareness in your corner of influence to what is happening across the globe. We hear reports about Christians being assaulted, raped, and murdered on a daily basis, and much of it comes through social media. We have but to open our eyes to find such reports, and raising awareness can be as simple as clicking a “share” button.

Not every person or individual can do the “big thing.” Not everyone can be in these far-flung places to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But ALL of us can do something, whether it is a comment on Facebook, a few dollars sent to assist, or a few minutes a day spent in prayer. In the end, the question will not be, “Why didn’t you do the BIG THING?” The question will be, “What did you do with what I gave you?”

Now… Go make a difference in your world.