Friday, April 10, 2009

When Death Means Joy

Today is Good Friday - the day on which we remember with particular attention Jesus' brutal death by His enemies on the Cross. That brutality adds up to a paradox because for us Christians such hate poured out in Him means an eternity of joy. Joy through holy bloodshed - that's the paradox of Good Friday.
I'd like to call us to consider another possible means of joy through holy bloodshed. Today I received an e-mail from our missionary contact in Sudan. As he wrote he was about to fly from Kenya north into Sudan, and he is asking for prayer because of the following warning from the US Embassy in Kartoum:

In March 2009, the government of Sudan expelled numerous aid groups from the country and senior government officials publicly called humanitarian aid workers "spies." There is a continuing possibility that ongoing protests may encourage violent action against Europeans and Americans. On January 1, 2008, two American Embassy employees were assassinated while traveling in their vehicle in Khartoum. The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Sudan. Americans and Europeans have been victims of kidnappings, carjackings and armed robberies while traveling in Sudan. There have also been several incidents of hostage taking of European NGO workers and Chinese oil workers over the last year, as well as a hijacking of a domestic airline flight. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, or kidnappings. Travel anywhere in Sudan, including Khartoum and the adjacent town of Omdurman, is potentially dangerous. Militia forces have instigated sporadic violence and have attacked locations in Southern Sudan.

Though Ed and our teams going into Sudan do all they can to be safe, sometimes gospel ministry meets satanic hate resulting in spilled Christian blood. That spells dark sorrow for mourning Christians, but, according to Psalm 116:15 it also means that "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." And, in Revelation 7 we catch a glimpse of the Christian martyrs from chapter 6 with palm branches of victorious joy in their hands and praise on their lips.

As with Good Friday so now the hatred of the world costs Christian blood but equals joy. As you think about this paradox of the Kingdom of God this Good Friday, say a prayer for safety for Ed and all our brothers and sisters in Christ in Sudan - and then prepare your heart to rejoice in the martyrdom of some. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. The tears of the church are a prelude to our joy.

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