The New York Times reported last Friday that nearly 300 Assyrian Christians in a town in northeastern Syria have recently been taken captive or killed by ISIS barbarians. This Christian community is one of the oldest in the world, with some of the people even speaking a modern-day version of Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.
Everywhere throughout Iraq, Syria, and beyond, the ISIS terrorists are enslaving, burning alive, burying alive, beheading, or even crucifying any person that does not bow to their perverted and vile version of Sunni Islam.
Their intent is to draw western nations, particularly the United States, into a religious war with them. They seek to enrage us and make us fearful of their inhuman brutality. Their ultimate goal is to unite the entire world under one Muslim caliphate ruled by Sharia (Islamic) law. They think the only way to do this is to hasten the return of the Mahdi, the Islamic messiah, to unite the Islamic world. They believe that bloodshed and chaos are required for this to happen. So accordingly, ISIS is killing or subjugating anyone that does not adhere to their wretched faith.
Indeed, after the beheading of the Coptic Christians in Libya last week, these pernicious barbarians sent out a video entitled, “A Message in Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” In other words, these terrorists have sent their challenge directly to the United States. A challenge they will execute upon, whether we accept that challenge or not. Theirs is a challenge that all Christians must convert to their mutated strain of Islam, become enslaved and pay a religious tax, or be put to death.
While I suppose America can still ostensibly be called the “Nation of the Cross”, often times today many people, including Christians, really don’t understand the full implications of the cross. Many see the cross as some sort of an adornment… nothing more than a piece of jewelry to be worn. The true significance of what the cross once was is lost upon most people.
The cross was a brutally effective instrument of torture in ancient Roman times. It was an instrument that evoked great fear. The Romans crucified those that were a threat to their laws and sense of order as an example to other would-be revolutionaries and rabble-rousers. This is why Pontius Pilate had Jesus Christ crucified on Calvary. The cross of Christ stood near one of the gates into the city of Jerusalem, as a sign to His followers and others coming into the city for Passover that a similar fate awaited them if they vexed the Roman Empire.
Of course we Christians know the rest of the story.
Christ willingly allowed himself to be scourged and then crucified in expiation for all of our sins, including mine. He did it out of a perfect love for us all. He suffered a horrific death… a death on a cross. And in so doing he conquered death, rising on the third day. Christ took that instrument of barbaric torture and trembling fear and he turned it into a symbol of our very salvation.
Christ’s early followers then took up the cross, as it were, and appropriated it for themselves as their symbol. No longer was the cross only an instrument of fear used by the Romans to maintain order. Christians taunted the Romans with the sign of the cross by proclaiming our God is far greater than your symbol of torture, fear, and death. Through your crucifixion of Him on a cross, He conquered death. Your cross holds no sway … no fear… over us anymore. Indeed, it has now become the greatest symbol of agape love possible because of our loving and merciful God.
As Tertullian noted so long ago, the blood of Christian martyrs is the seed of the Church. He is right. ISIS barbarians can continue their attempted reign of terror across the Middle East, but death to Christians --to Christians living in the “nation of the cross” -- know that their deaths are only temporal. Our lives are eternal because our salvation was purchased two millennia ago by our God, who accepted a hideous death on a cross.
ISIS, your threat of terror does not envelop us with fear. For just like those brave martyrs on the Libyan beach two weeks ago, we do not fear your instruments of terror. While Christianity does indeed seem to be waning in many parts of the world today, the United States of America is still “the Nation of the Cross.” It is something that even our enemies acknowledge, even if they do not understand. It is for our beliefs and love of Christ Jesus that we will stand even stronger, together as a nation. We will not come undone.