“Here in America, I would say we definitely love our comfort and we definitely love our security. Those are two ‘gods,’ if you will, in our life,” notes Alexa McDowell, E3 Partners’ MECA Communications Director.
“For me, just to walk alongside the [persecuted] believers–[seeing that] comfort and security is totally NOT something that’s even on their radar–has been a huge thing.”
E3 Partners helps Christians throughout the Middle East–even in dangerous places like Iraq and Syria–who are staying to share the Gospel with Muslims. Learn about their work in the Middle East here.
In 2016, E3 is leading several short-term mission trips to the Middle East. One of them could be your chance to gain a new perspective on persecution.
Even though ancient Christian sites are being destroyed, and Middle East Christians are being kidnapped and killed by ISIS, “the Holy Spirit is just moving and convicting their hearts and opening their eyes to these spiritual opportunities. They just feel convicted to stay.”
It’s not an easy choice for believers, McDowell admits. “When we see out of our fleshly eyes, we want to take care of our family, and we want to be in a place that is safe and stable.
“They [persecuted Christians] desire those things. And yet, at the same time, they are lovers of the Lord Jesus; they want to fulfill a purpose and a plan that He has called them to.”
Scripture comes alive on E3 trips
Meeting and enjoying fellowship with Middle East Christians like these brings Scripture to mind, McDowell says.
“It’s a radical thing that Jesus talks about: really loving our enemy and loving those who hurt us or persecute us, and turning the other cheek.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew 5, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
In the U.S. context, McDowell observes, applying that teaching might mean being nice to a co-worker or boss who mistreats you. It might even mean forgiving the spouse who cheated on you, instead of seeking retaliation.
“It hurts, and it’s a legitimate concern,” she notes. “But, then you see these [persecuted] believers, and they’re loving ISIS…they’re saying, ‘I forgive these horrible people that are killing my children.’
“Reading the Scriptures and those radical teachings of Jesus, and then being able to see actually living it out: you know it’s not humanly possible for them to be able to forgive and to love [ISIS]; it has to be the Holy Spirit.”