He was 7 years old. Played with friends. Went to Sunday school. And then one Sunday, he didn’t return from church. When I found out why, (7 year old tortured and killed for faith) my heart was wrecked. Absolutely and completely wrecked.
The anguish inside me felt almost physical today. The grief in my heart and my spirit brimmed in my eyes whenever this horrendous story came to mind.
This little boy lived in India and he loved Jesus. That is why someone killed him. That is the reason someone decided that he should suffer and die.
I wanted to scream, “Why???” but we already know the answer. Jesus states in John 15:18, that “if the world hates you, remember that it hated me first”; and “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations” (Matt.24:9) Harsh words. Harsh reality. Many people outside of North America are persecuted and put to death because of their faith. We, in our comfortable North American lives, can barely relate to those who suffer physical mistreatment and death because they belong to Jesus.
As I thought about that boy’s poor mother, and the rest of the family, who have suffered such loss, I recalled these words that I had read this week from The Healing Presence by Leanne Payne. She explains that when in grief or pain, she simply stands and asks Christ to come and be with her as she hurts, praying until his help or comfort comes.”See the Cross… see yourself standing and hurting, acknowledging all these feelings, but let Christ take them into Himself. Let them flow into Him, just as you would sins you have confessed.” She also talked about her mother, who had an extremely difficult life, but “no matter what the suffering, stood without a trace of anger or self-pity, face upward toward God, ready to stand like that till kingdom come if necessary”.
My grief seemed intense today. My heart railed against injustice and pain. I cried for this little boy’s mother.
But the words that came to me this morning were about Jesus’ words concerning forgiveness: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” (Matt.5:43-44)
Woah. I have to admit, Jesus, those words seem too hard today.
“The sufferer needs to understand that, if (s)he will stand in the Cross and hurt, there is a place for it to go, an end to the pain…repressed grief and sorrow and loss remain to afflict us in other ways until we grieve them out. It is a wonderful thing to stand in Christ, identify with His suffering for us, and grieve out our griefs and yield up our angers, naming them and forgiving others at the same time.” – Leanne Payne
The kids and I read from Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Advent devotional this morning and my spirit resonated with some of her thoughts. The reading focussed on the interaction between the serpent and Eve in the garden. “We’re only two chapters in. And the whole story falls apart” writes Voskamp.
Yup. That’s us! Humanity! Messin’ things up even before it’s barely begun!
“We’re only freshly wounded by sin when love drives God to come walking, to kneel down and reveal our remedy. God offers to forever heal us with this: a distant descendant of Eve will crush the sinful head of Satan. Can you hear the whisper in the wind: Jesus! Christmas has been coming right from the very beginning! We who are fallen and messy and bitten by sin will be bandaged and washed and made whole.”
The darkness in our world is great – this story from India illustrates that clearly enough. Yet this is why a baby lay in the arms of a teenager in a stable full of animals on a cold winter’s night over 2000 years ago. The remedy for sin was sent: the sacrificial lamb was born.