Category Archives: light

A Coptic light in the Mideast darkness

The Middle East has experienced much darkness during the last years. But a light is drawing attention.

Christians make up between 15-20 percent of the population of Egypt; most are members of the ancient Coptic church. The nation’s leaders talk about all citizens being part of one family, but reality has been otherwise. Muslim demands are often appeased at the Christian minority’s expense.

How should the church respond? Surely they should call for fairness and justice. However, efforts by young Coptic Christians to demonstrate for equal rights after the 2011 Arab Spring were literally crushed under military tanks. Now a different response from the church is having dramatic impact.

On Palm Sunday ISIS suicide bombers attacked two Egyptian churches, killing 44 persons and injuring over 100. At St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, the bomber was prevented from entering the sanctuary by a guard, Naseem Faheem. Coptic funeral after ISIS suicide bombing in April 2017So when the bomber detonated, Faheem was the first to die in the blast. A few days later Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, aired an interview of the widow saying “I’m not angry at the one who did this. I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’” Adeeb sat in stunned silence, searching for a response. Finally he said, “Egyptian Christians are made of Steel! … How great is this forgiveness you have! If it were my father, I could never say this…” Millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.

Such a word of forgiveness differs radically from the prevailing Middle Eastern culture based on honor and shame, demanding revenge.

Christian forgiveness began to rivet Egypt in 2015 after ISIS executed 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya and the victim’s families publicly forgave the terrorists. This grace is winning the hearts of the nation. Ramez Atallah, president of the Bible Society of Egypt, told a CT reporter that many Egyptians are seeing Christian forgiveness to be exactly what their country needs to “keep Egypt from becoming like Lebanon during its civil war.” Forgiveness, not justice, is the only possible path to peace in Egypt. An insistence on justice can never bring about reconciliation since each side tallies justice differently than the other. What one thinks would even the score, the other would see as a new injustice to be avenged.

Jesus is still the light of the world! And the darker the world, the more brightly we see the light of his way of love and grace even to one’s enemy.

Let Jesus’ light shine

“Now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” (Ephesians 5:8).

This world is full of darkness – evil, suffering, confusion. Yet we ended our year with festivities, nonetheless. The Light of the world has come (Matthew 4:16, John 1:9, 8:12, 12:46)! Light will always overcome darkness — all the darkness in the whole world cannot put out the light of one small candle. Especially this Light (John 1:5).

As a new year begins, we can continue our celebration. The One who came as the Light of the world is kindling light in us! Jesus says that we, his followers, are also the Light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). As we love and obey Jesus, the beautiful qualities of his life are transmitted to our own — his goodness, integrity, love, compassion, justice. The great darkness around us merely allows Jesus’ light to shine more strongly! To get a good view of the stars, one must find a place that is truly dark.

So let’s enter the new year, doing what we can to fully connect with Jesus and let his light shine through us. This means brokenness and humility (choosing to confess, repent, be taught); commitment to Jesus as Lord. It means sacrifice (give up natural desires for the sake of loving God and neighbor) and worship (love for God is expressed and grows and takes focus off self). It means commitment to a local congregation (work through differences and difficult times, forgive each other) and fellowship (affirmation and affection, mutual encouragement and accountability) and bible study (learn who God is and what he calls us to do) and prayer (an interactive friendship as God guides and strengthens us).

The culmination of this connection happens as we go into this dark world as Jesus’ hands and voice, doing acts of service and justice (actively work for the good of others, especially the poor and powerless) and evangelism (build a relationship around a common interest, talk about spiritual life as it comes up) and missions (build the Kingdom of God around the world). What a great year this can be!