We had such a great Easter week at Crosswalk! Holy Thursday was a deep blessing to many, and we had the largest attendance ever! Our Easter Egg Hunt at Washington Park was a blast, with well over 400 people from our community enjoying the day with us. This is a gift we give our community each year, and many expressed their heartfelt appreciation. At the Easter Candy ministry, called “The Sweet Jesus Experience,” children (and some adults) heard the gospel and prayed to receive Christ as their Lord. Then our Easter services on Sunday were well attended with great enthusiasm and joy, with some spiritual decisions being made.
Here’s the Easter Shock: Not all our brothers and sisters around the globe had the same experience. CNN did a good job covering the horrendous terrorist attack in Pakistan. A suicide bomber killed 74 people and injured 362 others at a park in Lahore. A sub-group of the Taliban, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, proudly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had specifically targeted Christians on Easter. The group vowed more such attacks in the future. At least twenty-four children were among the dead.
This is part of a pattern in Pakistan, and in many other Middle Eastern countries where Muslims dominate and Christians are an increasingly ostracized minority. For example, in March of last year, another Christian community is Lahore was attacked that resulted in 14 deaths with 78 wounded. In 2013 a church in Pakistan was bombed, killing more than 80 worshipers.
Of course, we have the sad luxury of cognitive dissonance which provides a buffer against taking these deaths too much to heart. Here are some observations:
- We are duty bound to grieve with our extended church family members, and pray for them.
- We must take some comfort in the fact that persecution like this is not surprising. It is just as Jesus said it would be (see John 15:20, among other verses).
- On top of our grief, some action is required. At Crosswalk, we support two ministries in the Middle East. Peter Pereira and Hope for Today cover all of South Asia. We have aimed our focus on Bhutan and North India, but Hope for Today has a presence in Pakistan. We also support Iran Alive Ministries. I have recently been invited to speak on their broadcast, but don’t know when my travels will take me to their headquarters in Dallas. This Sunday we will feature this ministry and how they are reaching thousands in what is a “closed country” to Christianity.
- We can practice gratitude to God that we are blessed to live in a country where the first amendment to our Constitution guarantees religious freedom. May it ever be so.
- Lastly, we can take comfort that the Bible has some great promises to those who die for their faith. The first martyr, Stephen, was given a glorious vision of heaven before he died (Acts 7:56); the apostle John saw those martyred for their faith reigning with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). The apostle Peter wrote “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you… However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:14,16). It is promised that God will one day avenge the death of those who were martyred (Revelation 6:9-11). We also have the blessing our Lord himself gives: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11).
The response to Easter shock is to accept the challenge, in our time and place, to rededicate ourselves to the noble cause of living for the One who died for us!