For many churches and Christians, across various denominational lines, this Wednesday, February 18, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent–a forty-day period of penitence and prayer, to prepare for Easter celebration.
In a word, Lent is being dead to self but alive to God (cf. Romans 6:11).
For 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, this was the case–the ultimate death to self but alive to God. In their ongoing campaign to instill fear and dread in others, the Islamic State released a video, showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, who were singled out and captured because of their faith in Jesus.
You see, in those parts of the world, to be Christian is to court death daily.
So what do we make of all this as we begin the Lent season? What can we do, those of us who are in the fight though of a different nature? First, as noted above, to be Christian in certain parts of the world is to court death daily. Therefore we must learn how to pray and support our brothers and sisters who live in constant fear of death. Second, we must pray for enemies of the Christian faith–pray for open doors, for the gospel message. Third, rather than praying for an escape from this world (which I believe is getting better), let’s reclaim territory by territory for King Jesus–by being the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16).
In the end, for these 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, in death, they are not only with Christ, but they have gained Christ, the One for whom they lived and died (Philippians 1:21-23)