Costly faith … three years later

Today, I revisited a blog post I wrote in January 2011, just after the bombing of the Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt. I can view it today with a different lens, after visiting Egypt and hearing Christians there talk about what that awful night did. No one knew it then, but it was the beginning of an unprecedented movement of unity and prayer among Egyptian Christians. We’re currently working on stories about that powerful unity and its impact on a revolution that began three weeks later.

So, as a preview to those Crossfield News stories coming soon, here’s that 2011 post again:

What if your faith cost you something? I mean, what if it really cost you something … like your sense of safety, or even your life?

On New Year’s Eve, as a worship service ended, a suicide bomber struck a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt, killing 21 people and injuring about 100. The video above shows some of the aftermath.

Christmas on the Coptic calendar falls on Jan. 7, just a week after the bombing. Across Egypt, churches were packed – even the one that was bombed. According to a Catholic Online story:

Refusing to cower to Islamic terrorists, members of the Coptic Orthodox Church attended Christmas services in droves. An official for Egypt’s Catholic community said, “We fear no one, and nothing will prevent us from going to our churches in this country of the martyrs.”

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Christians are being quietly driven out of Iraq. Others are being arrested in Iran. This NPR story describes the roundup of 70 Christians today in Iran, then makes this observation:

“In the West, the followers are drawn to house churches because of the intimate sense of religious fellowship and as an alternative to established denominations. In places such as Iran, however, there also is the effort to avoid monitoring of sanctioned churches from Islamic authorities — who have kept closer watch on religious minorities since the chaos after hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed election in 2009.

Groups monitoring Christian affairs in the Islamic world say Iranian authorities see the unregulated Christian gatherings as both a potential breeding ground for political opposition and suspect they may try to convert Muslim in violation of Iran’s strict apostasy laws — which are common throughout the Muslim world and have at times fed extremist violence against Christians and others. …

“It’s the nature of the house churches that worries Iran. It’s all about possible converts,” said Fleur Brading, a researcher for Middle East and North Africa at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British-based group the follows Christian rights issues around the world. “It’s a very specific and pinpoint strike by Iran.”

We ignore news stories like these at the risk of alienating ourselves from the heart of God.

It’s so easy here in comfortable, isolated America to approach church as a consumer: This one has good music, but that one has better teaching and kids programs, and I like the coffee better. Persecution to us means people make fun of us or think we’re weird, and that makes us uncomfortable.

Can you imagine any of those Iranian house churches splitting because of disagreements about whether to sing traditional hymns or Chris Tomlin songs? Can you imagine explaining to Egyptian Coptics how their American brethren sometimes don’t attend church because it meets at an inconvenient time?

Better, imagine the faith required to worship in a sanctuary still splattered with the blood of fellow believers. Imagine life with the real possibility of being blown to eternity because you choose to identify with Christ.

At the very least, this could prompt us to spend a little less time praying for our own safety and comfort and more time praying for the persecuted Body of Christ around the world.


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