“God has made clear that every martyr’s sacrifice is an appointment, not an accident” (Warren Weirsbe). Weirsbe speaks to the cry of the believers in Revelation 6:9-11 who are under the altar and who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They cried out to God saying, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” God charged and comforted each one with an action and a promise, “…wait a little longer, until the full number of your fellow servants, your brothers and sisters, are killed just as you had been.”
What does a living believer do with their persecutors during this waiting period? The human side of us says, kill them! Judge them harshly. Give them back what they have dished out. After all, what they have done deserves worse done to them. Yes, indeed, justice is deserved, but grace is offered. Those believers that live in the human flesh often fail in their faithfulness to the gospel. God calls us as believers to live in His righteousness. And “His righteousness is the perfect balance between wrath and mercy” (Penny Sizemore).
ISIS is not a new invention. History is littered with many accounts of barbaric behaviors from other evil groups in the world. Many innocent people have suffered greatly. But the believers who have the right focus are the ones who are victorious and see death with great influence. Revelation 6:9 says these special martyred believers were slain because of the word of God AND the testimony they had maintained. To maintain something is to practice faithfulness. And true faithfulness to the gospel is to be obedient to the mind and mission of Christ.
Jesus instructs us from the Great Sermon on the Mount, “”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, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45a).
This question, “Should we pray for ISIS?” has been on my mind for some time now. And God answered me this morning. Yes! We should pray for the people in this ISIS group. We should pray that Jesus would reveal Himself to these people, so that they can see the error of their way…so that they can repent and follow Him. Just as Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus we need to pray that this barbaric group would encounter Him the same. The enemy that we fight is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities of this world. The enemy that resides in the heart of ISIS is the devil and these people are in bondage to his schemes and mission. Praying for these people to be free will end the battle and bring the persecutions to a halt. What is happening in real-time is the result of the battle in their heart.
Does this mean we should not go to war and fight against them? No, all disruptive, evil behavior should be corrected and stopped immediately. Discipline is necessary, but it should never be void of prayer for souls who need Jesus as their Savior.
I believe that Christians who are being persecuted right now across the globe can be faithful to the gospel because they have chosen to seek first God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness, that perfect balance between wrath and mercy. They look at their persecutors and see what Corrie Ten Boom’s sister, Betsy saw, “Let’s teach them that love is a better way.” Betsy died in Ravensbruck, a German concentration camp on December 16, 1944, at the age of 59. But when she died, she died maintaining her testimony to the gospel. Her testimony lives on today. Her faithfulness to the gospel is a lesson for us when we suffer under the hand of our persecutor.
So, pray for the people of ISIS and all other groups persecuting our brothers and sisters. Pray that God would transform their heart. Pray for our fellow servants that they would maintain their testimony and see all of their suffering through the eyes of Jesus. Pray that God would give them supernatural power to be a faithful witness of Jesus until the very end. May the gospel be forever their focus and ours too!