“In this world you will have troubles, but take heart I have overcome the world .” — John 16:33
Along with the rest of the world, I was horrified by the brutal beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by the Islamic State — an attempt to strike fear in anyone with an internet connection and a heart.
In the Word | Jonathan Storment
Tactical. Shrewd. Evil.
I immediately thought of my Coptic Christian friends. While my wife and I were students at Harding University
, we spent a couple of weeks traveling in Egypt. Even then, the Coptic community was feeling persecuted in their predominantly Muslim homeland. They were cautious to identify themselves publicly, but several whispered to us “I follow Jesus too,” and the like.
Sometimes they didn’t have to say anything — like Jasar.
We met Jasar when we stopped at a kiosk to get a snack. He had an Arabic Bible open in his lap. He told me that Jesus followers were all around us, trying to live at peace with people who don’t believe like they do.
Often, Egyptians are confused by Christianity and American culture, he said. I soon understood what he meant. Before we left, a Muslim gave me a handwritten note — addressed to me, then-president George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice. I’ve kept it for more than 13 years:
Americans: Please tell your film censor board not to release any pop albums which are of bad scenes. This will affect our children in bad manner. Thank you for your presence.
A letter Jonathan Storment received from an Egyptian man 13 years ago. (PHOTO VIA JONATAHANSTORMENT.COM)
The man who gave it to me told me that he could never be a Christian because he believed that sex was meant only for marriage and shouldn’t be degraded the way he saw it portrayed on imported television shows and songs from the West.
The Islamic State makes the same mistake — assuming that the way of Jesus is embodied by American culture, politics, territory. The murder of the Coptic Christians is a letter, “signed in blood to the nation of the Cross,” they claim.
I’m a part of this nation of the Cross. It has no borders. It is a worldwide community of people who believe that this act of brutality is not the worst thing that can happen to us. Murder doesn’t silence the voices of the slain. Their blood cries out to God.
I’m a part of this nation of the Cross. It has no borders. It is a worldwide community of people who believe that this act of brutality is not the worst thing that can happen to us.
Fear-driven acts of bullying only strengthen our resolve to lay down our lives. “The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity,” one early Jesus follower wrote
, during a much scarier time than this.
And he was right.
Back to Jasar, my Coptic Christian friend. After visiting with him for a few minutes, I asked him to read John 16:33.
His rough translation from his Arabic Bible was this: “This life and the world you live in will be hard, but don’t be anxious. I win.”