Churches have been increasingly targeted by violence on holy days in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people. A Christmas Day suicide bombing in Madalla, near Nigeria’s capital, killed at least 44 people.
I have no idea of what it feels like to live in this kind of situation. What are the pressures and fears? How do the risks affect an individual, or a church?
Despite not knowing the experience, here’s one thought about what happens when people are attacked for our beliefs. Persecution reveals which God/god we turn to.
An immediate reaction is to turn to the attacker and attack back – or long to do so. It’s reactive, and it’s a just thing. After all, we rejoice that the Lord will come and judge the world with justice (Psalm 96:11-13).
Yet if taken to obsession, Christians can become fixated on Islam: Islam as the threat; Muslims as the enemy; the god of Mohammed as a danger; etc. In such case, haven’t we turned to focus on the wrong god?
As I’ve struggled for what to pray for persecuted Christians – in Nigeria and elsewhere – I regularly end up asking that Christians turn to the God of the Gospel. I ask that God fill his people will knowledge of the Holy One. And that Christians learn that the weak Gospel of Jesus is victorious, that the foolish message of love for enemy is more powerful than any jihad, and that the way to resurrection life is via the cross. I ask that, despite violent challenge from a false god, Christians will react to the challenge by turning once again to the real God.