What They Fear

I wept as I caught up today on news from around the world.

In particular, the plight of Christians in Northern Iraq pierced me as I read reports too graphic for the sensitive hearts I know read this blog. The headline alone, “They Want to Cleanse the Christians” should be enough by way of explaining my tears.

As I wept, I prayed. And the Spirit of the Lord pierced me with a truth more real than my sorrow. Always, I keep the news from the Mid-East at bay by somehow imagining that they (whoever “they” are this week. Now, it is ISIS, next week, “they” will go by a different name) are a people different from the ones I know, different than my own friends and neighbors.

But they aren’t, are they?

The people setting fire to churches, torturing neighbors, and committing unspeakable acts against others simply because they worship Jesus – these men and women are no different than those I saw at the grocery store this week or who dined next to me at the restaurant last night.

Flesh. Blood. Heart. Soul. Sons. Daughters. Human beings capable of great good and great evil.

It takes shockingly little to turn us against one another, neighbor against neighbor. The line between civil decency and murderous thuggery is unimaginably fine. We don’t even have to look as far back as Nazi Germany.

Just a couple chapters ago in our own history books, little girls murdered in the Civil Rights embattled South. In just 100 days of 1994, nearly 1,000,000 Rwandans slaughtered by former acquaintances, coworkers, schoolmates. In 1995, a new phrase coined to describe the atrocities in Bosnia. “Ethnic cleansing” helped us handle the news of mass murder coming out of Eastern Europe. And now, ISIS, North Korean labor camps, Chinese prisons, and Nigerian uprisings.

We haven’t stepped as far out of history as we like to believe.

I can pretend the men with guns in Iraq are some kind of different men than the ones playing baseball down the road from me tonight but the truth is there is no difference. The men in Iraq could choose to pick up bats and gloves as easily as the men at Dow field could choose to pick up automatic weapons and decide my family should leave town.

As my soul cried out to the Lord about this anxious thought, a verse same to mind from Isaiah: “do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.”

I thought for a moment God was telling me not to fear what the Christians of Iraq fear but no, He was warning me not to fear what the murderers, the torturers, the oppressors, the persecutors fear.

What do they fear? I thought. What fear drives people to take up arms and storm their neighbors’ homes with ropes or torches, to drive out children and force themselves upon women who have committed no crime?

They are afraid of losing control.

That’s sobering because I want to be in control, too. And so, I read the Isaiah passage with new eyes, with this thought in mind, how little separates us from becoming murderous beings. Isaiah 8:11-15 (ESV) warns:

“For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Do you fear losing control? Are you afraid when it becomes clear you’re NOT in control? Do you struggle to control your world and the people in it? I do and I resist God when He tries to loosen my grip on the reins of my own life.

But now, I see a little clearer, why He pushes me to relinquish control to Him and Him alone. The murderous mobs fear losing control and it drives them to corral their neighbors into churches and set them ablaze. Why don’t I see that if continue to be ruled by fear I could be the next one tossing a rope over a strong branch in the front yard for the person who threatens my sense of security?

Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. Let the Lord be your fear. Let Him be your dread. This is what separates me from ISIS. ONLY this: that I will choose to fear the Lord alone.

What do you fear, loved ones? Do you fear losing control? If so, you may be closer than you imagine to picking up a rock and tossing it through your neighbor’s window.

Watch the news tonight and ask yourself – those people doing those terrible things, what do they fear? Do I fear the same? Or is the Lord my only fear?

When we watch the news about believers who suffer persecution, the enemy wants us to fear becoming victims of the same. God tells us that this is not the greatest danger. The greatest danger is becoming the people bearing the torches and the swords.

You may also want to read the post 10 Reasons You Kill Christians and Other Christians Make Me Wonder

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  1. Maxine D says:

    I love this perspective – thank you Lori – you challenge me to think more and be more ‘pro-active’ as a Christian.

  2. How troubling, Lori. I receive a monthly newsletter from the International Mission Board that describes the horrors experienced by our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. It breaks my heart and, you’re right, I fear the time when we will face this in our own country. We should only fear God but we must not stand by complacently. We should pray diligently for the Christians in other countries and work to protect our rights here. Apathy will be our downfall.

    Thanks for a great post!