The 21 Copts, Evil, & Forgiveness – Lenten 2015 Reflections

I still have not found the words to post on the brutal deaths of the 21 Coptic Christians (I literally have 4 lengthy drafts that have been emotionally cathartic, way too angry, and hardly appropriate for sharing).

I find myself angry that people are killed, profiled, or treated unfairly based on ideology, ethnicity, or some other arbitrary reason. The persecutor may use justifications from religion, some type of national/tribal history, or draw from a certain set of their own felt persecutions that they believe allows them to act in vengeance. I’m over-symplyfing but the main reason for their evil action is to either create or maintain power.

Last year, my Lent was informed by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. To me, that incident represents the tragic nature of life that we cannot control. Despite our advancements, humanity will always be limited and vulnerable to death. Processing that last year also included the nature of disease, the victims of the evil-doers who traffic, manipulate, attack, conceal and murder and all who grieve the loss of life, love or freedom. I believe Jesus came to end all this and give us something better. 

This Lent, I am processing these 21 Copts, the nature of persecution and the different types of martyrs in the world from my Western perspective. I am mourning the 21 men, praying for their families, and mediating on all those who face similar persecution. In this sense, The 21 Copts represent a great deal to me/us. To press further, the 21 Copts were profiled and this makes me think and pray for those who continue to be profiled today. The 21 were captured because the oppressors used their ideology to force their power upon them.

When ideology is used to oppress another, we find countless other atrocities, ranging from genocide, to undermining women, to sins of racism and many others. This week, we read about more Boko Haram attacks (and their new alliance with Isis), Isis throwing gay men off of roof tops, and the Justice Department’s findings of a racist Ferguson police force. This is a snapshot of all that is wrong in the world far and near. Much of this comes down to basic human rights and the need for societal change. But again, I believe Jesus came to end all this and give us something better. 

Over the 40 days, Lent can easily become too pious, too individual. I find using the backdrop of evil in our world to be needed when I mediate on what Jesus died and rose again for. That said, if I zoom out too much and over-focus on the travesties of the world, I find that I am not allowing the gospel to be personal enough. Grateful I have 40 days to balance some of this out.

As much as is wrong with the world, I am reminded by all that is good in the world too, Today I celebrate  the power of forgiveness. I continue to be moved by the mother of one of the 21 martyrs when she forgave her son’s killers. In essence her forgiveness is telling the oppressor that they are not in control. Her hope in Christ gives her a greater power than any sword or terror can yield. The oppressor is a bully but like all who are impressed by their own power, Jesus will answer them as well.

Now, this does not solve everything for me, but I find that powers like forgiveness and hope to be worthy sparring partners against hate and evil. Which points me back to the cross and empty tomb of Jesus. Which, long story short, gives me peace to enjoy the blessings I’ve been given and gives me strength to do things I believe God has called me to. I hope this, and more, is true for you as well. Indeed, so much further to go this Lent, but here’s what I’m pausing today on.

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