There is much turmoil still—unsettling thoughts as images of God’s chosen kneeling before evil swirl in my mind. Evil is almost always a vaporous, foreboding feeling, not a tangible reality for me. I have labeled things, actions, sometimes people as evil. I think I must generally ascribe it to the dark one that is prowling, with his thunderous last roars in a futile attempt to project dominance. But these orange jumpsuit moments captured on film put evil in a particular moment in time, fully tangible and it tends to overwhelm heart and mind.
My oldest finished a psychology class and offered the name I recall from my days in school: cognitive dissonance. When our minds struggle to reconcile these images, to find comfort in a visual that offers none. Behind those masks we can’t determine intention. This unsettles, disturbs, and brings fear. Then the actions make it real and the connection is made. The deception of the roaring lion is complete for these masked men as they are blinded by distorted world views apart from Good, the only Good that can sustain all of His creation.
The lives of these 21 were taken by force as they remained faithful to the Living Word. They uttered prayers in their final seconds on earth. They invoked the Word. And I turn to the Word alive, the Word written for comfort. John 12:24 comes to my mind: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” They lost earthly life but keep eternal life in the presence of the Good God. I consider the verse prior, 23: “And Jesus answered them, ‘the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’” As their Savior before them, they follow God’s plan, they serve until death and then gain what He gave through His own death, life eternal. These angry, distorted men behind the masks talk of defeat and believe they’ve been victorious, but like all in this world, the kingdom of God turns it upside down. Death looks like the end. It is, in fact, only the beginning—the precursor to bearing much fruit. These 21 testify to it even at this very moment, before their Savior, before the saved who are yet here enduring.
I think of my own small life, my cowardice in living. I hope I have the ability to stand up in the face of evil. I haven’t really ever done it. Then I remember that ALL of the grace in my life is just that—grace, His doing. My hope is in His doing. Verses 27-28 give me hope again: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Because He has already done it, I know He will triumph again in me, through me.
Still, this small life I think. I’m sheltered, not persecuted. Protected, not exposed. These 21 were persecuted, they were exposed. They were steadfast. Prayers on their lips as they went from this temporary life to their eternal lives.
Unless a grain of wheat falls, dies, it remains alone.
I don’t want to be alone.
Where I am looks different. Circumstances are not the same. But the call is:
Verses 25-6: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
To follow this King, I must fall, I must die to self to bear the fruit.
So while I am grateful I am not the one in the orange jumpsuit, God purposed me here and now in this place. I must die to selfish motives, to fearful lips that don’t want to be bold with the Living Word. If I can daily fall, die with my prayer to the one who raises the dead, I will begin to get a glimpse of this eternal life, eternal perspective. It is a perspective that will eliminate this cognitive dissonance, that will allow me to recognize and still be brave in the face of evil. The perspective will lead to less of me and more of Him. It will lead to fruit, to seed spread, to harvests ready.
It is not an easy call. Even Jesus was troubled in His soul, but fortified in His purpose to glorify His Father’s name. So I will bow to my King to leave self behind. I pray for families of the martyred. I thank God for their testimony in their final moments and for the fruit that will be born. And I pray for those in the dark, the dark of their masked faces. And I rest in Jesus’ promise as He continued toward the cross (verse 46) “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
Milad Makeen Zaky
Abanub Ayad Atiya
Maged Solaiman Shehata
Yusuf Shukry Yunan
Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
Somaily Astafanus Kamel
Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
Girgis Milad Sinweet
Mina Fayez Aziz
Hany Abdelmesih Salib
Bishoy Adel Khalaf
Samuel Alham Wilson
Worker from Awr village
Ezat Bishri Naseef
Gaber Munir Adly
Esam Badir Samir
Malak Farag Abram
Sameh Salah Faruq