It’s been three months since the Easter Sunday attacks by an extremist group on three churches and three luxury hotels in the island-nation of Sri Lanka left the world confounded and outraged. A few individuals, armed with hate, snuffed out 253 lives — and made us all ask some deep questions, irrespective of what faith or ideology we espouse. There are a few realities of the Christian faith that come to the fore in times like these — and they’re certainly ones that the perpetrators didn’t give enough thought to before carrying out their heinous acts. But three months on, when the events of that fateful Sunday are no longer making headlines, what comfort do Christians have amidst the death and despair?
Tyranny and threats are ineffective weapons against Christians because of the hope they have in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Christians, therefore, can rest in the assurance that the death of the body is not the end of their existence.
Jesus came to reverse the curse of death. Those who believe in Him will live, though they die — because they will be raised to life when the Lord returns, never to die again. That hope emboldened the Christian philosopher Justin Martyr to write these words to his persecutors: “You can kill us, but you can’t hurt us.” His declaration echoes the promise found in 1 Thessalonians 4:4: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep”.
While it may seem like the killers succeeded in their mission, the reality of resurrection is one they didn’t care to consider. They will soon find out — or may already have — who the real victors are.
Another reality that needs our attention is that Jesus Christ is building His church in Sri Lanka and around the world. He is building His church even as these deaths occur, and no one can stop its advance. Christians can be persecuted, murdered, mocked, or crucified — but the church will still continue to grow, because “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus Christ is building His church even as these deaths occur, and no one can stop its advance, because “the gates of Hades will not overcome it”
Historian Will Durant wrote, “There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.” The world has no power to wipe out the church of Jesus Christ.
Finally, God is sovereign and His purposes are just. He may, for a while, allow extremist groups to wield the sword. But in the end, God’s judgment will fall on them if they do not repent and turn to Christ. In the days of the prophet Habakkuk, even though foreign empires were triumphing, he put it well when he remembered that God would eventually defend his people. “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us” (Habakkuk 3:16).
Christians are able to accept injustice in the short term only by clinging to the promises of God that justice will prevail in the end. And as much as our hearts yearn for God’s judgment to be poured out on the radical outfits around the world for their monstrous crimes, we sincerely pray that all these murderers would repent of their sins and come to Jesus Christ for salvation! For “the Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
May these radicals turn to Christ and live. Until then, we pray that God will give His people the strength to endure this carnage.
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