The Wake-Up Call that is ISIS: Who in the Church is Answering?
A man turned to me last week when we were on plane about 30,000 feet over the earth.
He sat in C18 and I sat in D18 and he turned to me and said 4 words:
Everybody’s in. Love wins.
I had an open Bible in my lap.
And you could hear the engines under us, like you could hear how the whole world’s moving, how the whole trajectory of everything is moving.
Sometimes it feels deafening. It can be hard to know how to hear.
On Sunday, we come home from our little country chapel, after being bent over the Word and sharing big pots of soup and sharing our imperfect, battered hearts together, and us all just being messy and scared and broken down and real together around some Real Hope.
We saw it right after we’d got home. After we got home from breaking the bread and taking the wine and the astonishing healing of all us messed up, imperfect people coming to the very large Table and remembering the Cross and swallowing down the memory of the miracle of His grace.
We saw it right after we’d walked in the door and took off our coats: 21 men in their orange coveralls kneeling in the sand.
And 21 men wrapped completely in black, ISIS, standing behind those kneeling Christians, with what they were heralding as their “message signed in blood to the nation of the cross.”
I stumbled to find a chair, to hold on to something.
Who in the world are the people of the Cross?
It’s Sunday, the day after Valentine’s — and maybe we’re all just people of Love.
You know — “Everybody’s in. Love wins.”
Because, yeah, I get it — who wants to be the People of the Cross? The Cross is offensive.
The Cross doesn’t look like love, it doesn’t look like the Hallmark channel, it doesn’t look like the happy set of a breezy talk show, it doesn’t look like the smiling poster child of the positive-attitude movement.
Yeah, just go ahead and ask the 21 Coptic Christians who knelt before ISIS, who are waiting to be beheaded, for their heads to literally roll because they are “people of the Cross” — and yeah, the Cross may not make you friends with ISIS or the self-help gurus or any of the feel-good channels … or the people down the street, across the lunch aisle or across the office.
The Cross looks messy, it looks bloody, it looks ugly — and the Cross has been shamefully used like a sledge-hammer by the religious instead of like a life-line unashamedly held out by the rescued.
So yeah — maybe somewhere along the line we just wanted to become people of inoffensive Love — not people of the offensive Cross?
How have I done this?
But Jesus is the Word, the Logos, the Logic of the universe (John 1:1) and He determined that Love only has logic, only has meaning, when it’s in the form of the Cross.
Love is about ferocious suffering and gracious sacrifice and the root of Love is the foundation of the Cross and the dictionary that defines Love is a Cross and Love has no language, no meaning, no interpretation without the Cross.
God is Love and God is the essence of Love and He chose that the essential expression of Love is the Cross.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4
This is how God shows and shapes His love for us: through the Cross. This is how we shape and live our love: through the Cross.
It will always be offensive to say that our Love is not enough. It will always be offensive that His Pure, Blameless Cross-Shaped Love is necessary to take all my messiness and brokenness and sin.
So yeah, it may not be popular to say it, but medicine, exercise and hard things aren’t always popular around here either, and just because something may not be politically correct, doesn’t mean it’s not correct:
Any kind of love that lacks the iron of the Cross in it, is anemic love.
It won’t make you flourish, it won’t let you really live. It isn’t fully healthy Love.
Love without a Cross has no backbone.
Love without a Cross can’t stand — because it’s only about feel-good and not about being made new.
So why would the rescued just hold out hot cross-buns, pop psychology and pop-tarts to the drowning all around them — when they could humbly hold out the actual life-line of the Cross that literally saves?
A rope looks offensive if you think someone just threw you a noose — or it can look like your one and only life-line to save you from drowning — to pull you up into the dry land of the really living.
And if that Cross is something that literally rescues you and lets you really live? Then it’s something worth dying for.
People are dying for the faith we take for granted, that we take and hide under a bushel, that we take and paint vanilla — so we don’t get persecuted.
Are we people who humbly take up the Cross and take our faith seriously — or people who seriously take and hide our faith under a humble bushel?
I could sit at a table and weep over my own sin.
I feel like someone banged on cymbals somewhere and I can’t stop the reverberation: They’re “chopping off the heads of those that have been carrying around the Cross illusion in their heads.”
The world feels like a million impossible tons. My lungs feel heavy. Like I can’t breathe, like I can’t move for the weight of glory.
Who carries around the Cross in their heads?
Who lets the Cross shape them, lets the Cross become the pattern of their minds, shape their neural pathways, form and inform their thinking?
Who carries their Cross, who picks up and carries their Cross — that they would die for carrying the cross in their heads, in their hearts, for literally embodying the Cross?
Maybe only — The ones who carry around the Cross of Christ in their heads — are the only ones who really have Love of God in their hearts.
Because while Political Correctness may say: “Follow me and maybe we’ll find some Truth,” Jesus humbly pleads, “Pick Up Your Cross and follow Me: I am the truth.”
While Political Correctness may say, “Only talk of ‘Love’ and No Messy Cross and maybe we’ll find one of many ways to the good life,” Jesus quietly offers: “Come to Me at the Cross, all you are heavy laden and burdened and weary and messy: I am the way to the eternal good life.”
While Political Correctness may say, “Follow Me and maybe we’ll find many doors that lead to God,” Jesus humbly reaches out, “I hung on the Cross and I am the door — so follow Me.”
Everybody’s in — who opens the door with the key of the Cross.
Love wins — because the Cross wins. The Cross Wins.
The Cross frees the oppressors and the oppressed from oppression, the Cross redeems the rejected and remakes the undone, the Cross is God’s way of mending our broken hearts by breaking His heart in two and saying: “Me too.”
Love wins — only because the Cross wins.Rip the Cross out of the heart of Love and you kill the power of Love.
You could read it in the eyes of those 21 kneeled Christians about to have their heads severed for carrying around the Cross in their heads: “For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the Cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, the Cross is nothing short of God’s power.” 1 Cor. 1:18
That’s what we get to decide and carry home, carry in our heads, carry around in what we read, what we watch, what we support, what we cheer: Cheap Plastic Commercialized Feel-Good Love?
Or Wood Passionate Cross Made-New Love? Worth humbly laying down our lives for.
How have I failed in doing this?
When I read each of the 21 men’s names out loud, it’s like a pulsing refrain in my veins:
I want that — I want to be counted as People of the Cross, carrying around the Cross in my head — because that’s the only way there will be real love in my hands and feet and heart.
Whatever the world news may say about the Brave, Martyred 21 Christians who were beheaded by ISIS, His Word speaks the Truth of The 21: “The world was not worthy of them.” (Heb.11:38)
However any very real evil thinks it’s winning & overcoming, His Truth declares that The 21 are the Overcomers, that The 21 overcame “because of the blood of the Lamb & because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (Rev.12:11)
And wherever the People of the Cross are, we will remember every one of The 21’s names because they did not forget Him or forsake His name. We will pray for their families because they are our literal family, and we will pray for their murderers because the Cross that’s rescued us, is big enough, powerful enough, loving enough to rescue anyone who reaches for its redeeming grace.
The Cross says that the executioners will not ultimately triumph over the executed. And the Cross says that the executed will not ultimately triumph over their executioners. The Cross ultimately says the One who will triumph is the One who was executed first Himself on a Cross for the executed and the executioners and ushers in an Upside Down Kingdom of Real Love and New Rightness and Deep Wholeness and Pure Justice that singularly has the power to break hate.
The Cross doesn’t polarize with Bravado Power — it upends with serving, Bona-Fide Love.
So the People of the Cross will pray that our faith in our Saviour is worth laying down our life for our Savior.
We will pray that we don’t live lives of cheap grace but of costly Christianity. We will pray that The 21’s sacrificed lives will stir us to live sacrificial lives.
And the People of the Cross will weep prayers for the persecuted Church, because we are bound to them through the Cross of Christ & because of the Cross of Christ they are UNBOUND, UNDEFEATABLE, UNDAUNTED, & UNFORGETTABLE.
When the voice of ISIS warns on that video, his voice brash and brazen in the wind before The 21 about to be martyred: “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for” — it’s hard to swallow the burning ember rising in my throat.
Because he’s right.
Too long The People of the Cross have crusaded for safe lives, too long we’ve wished for comfortable lives, too long we’ve wanted easy lives of Vanilla Love instead of Cross-shaped Love.But the People of the Cross — we are done with safe lives of comfort instead of living dangerous lives that speak of the comfort found in Real Love who hung on a Cross.
When the day is done and last of the lights are turned out and my head hits the pillow, all I can think of is the faces of The 21 and their surrendered heads, their heads carrying the full reality of the Cross —
and how we’re on the brink of Lent and what would it mean to repent. How the People of the Cross have let themselves been chained to petty and purposeless things instead of praying for the Persecuted Church in chains. How the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.
How once when I was a little girl, I tried to behead a dandelion in full orb and if you behead a dandelion in full head —
you send a thousand more bravely out on the wind.
Related — Coming on Wednesday, Lord willing:
New Downloadable Lent Resources for the family to seriously live as People of the Cross
And if you’re serious about slaying fears, demons, evil & giants: #Pray703