We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. ~ (2 Corinthians 4:8-12 NIV)
The (other) N Word
Several years ago, when I served the business world, I was criticized for sharing my Christian faith and blackballed from an annual black tie event of fellow industry leaders. Seems the host of the event took exception when I said I would pray for a particular event in his life. I guess that, combined with my practice of bowing my head and subtly praying silently at lunch, when I was ‘on the clock’ (i.e. consulting) was an egregious display of proselytizing (or at least that’s what I was told).
Quite honestly I took the news similar to tennis great John McEnroe when he was blackballed from the Wimbledon Ball and Champion’s Dinner for his bad behavior on the court, even though he had just won the prestigious tournament. In other words, it didn’t bother me too much and (like McEnroe) I still got paid.
But what if I didn’t get paid? What if I lost my job or even my career? What if, in the middle of the night, someone vandalized my car or spray painted a cross on my house, and I, or worse my family, was ostracized, harassed or even assaulted because I had been open about my faith? Let’s be honest, as Americans, we know the odds of that happening, hover closely to the odds of any of us winning Wimbledon.
It is almost unfathomable for any of us to think that there would be risk associated with going to church, home Bible study, praying in public or even saying the ‘J’ word, i.e. Jesus. But in many countries there is great risk and reality of persecution including assault and even death. In many countries around the world, anti-Christians spew hatred for believers and in Iraq, spray paint the N Word on Christian homes and businesses in disgust. Not the N word, which is symbolic of bigoted racial hatred in America, but ‘the other N word,’ which is symbolic of bigoted religious hatred in the Middle East. Chances are, you have never heard about Christians being identified in a way similar to German Jews just prior to WWII who had the Star of David painted on their houses and businesses, and sewn to their clothes to identify them – which in turn led to the unbelievable atrocities of the Holocaust. In the Middle East, the Islamic State, that many Americans know as ISIS, mark homes and businesses owned by Christians with a red ن (pronounced “noon”), the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet and the equivalent to the letter N. The ن stands for Nasara or Nazarenes, a derogatory Arabic word for Christians (as reported by the National Review). This branding of Christians declares an open season of hatred for all who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Property owners publicly identified as Christians by the ن are given 3 choices – convert to Islam, leave their homes and businesses (often fleeing with only the clothes on their back), or die.
In an act of solidarity and a constant reminder, of Christian persecution, The Voice of the Martyrs, a non-profit organization has created a movement entitled ‘i-am-n.’ It reminds all of us that we are part of a world community of Christians. This Sunday, November 5 many churches around the world, including ours, will observe The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I encourage you to join me Sunday and throughout the month in prayer and fasting for our brothers and sisters, who unlike us, have little freedom to live and share their faith in Jesus Christ. I also encourage you to check out the Voice of the Martyrs and other resources regarding how you can support persecuted Christians around the world. The Scriptures tells us there will come a day when no Christian will escape persecution. Perhaps our self-sacrifice today will be self-survival in the coming days ahead. May God grant you courage and wisdom. God bless.