Men’s Breakfast:  Plan to attend the next Men’s First Saturday Breakfast on March 7th.  We begin with coffee on at 8:15 and breakfast at 8:30.  At 9:00 – 10:00 there will be a discussion from Wired Word, topic “Islamic State Beheads 21 Egyptian Christians”. There may be a lesson of forgiveness in this discussion? Come enjoy Jim Holroyd’s famous pancakes, along with eggs, bacon and sausages. Please let Oscar Gutbrod know if you plan to attend to assure there will be enough food for breakfast – 541-231-3954 –Thanks.

With this mailing lets welcome Darren Kerr and Jacob Messer mailing list – fellows hopefully you can join us on Saturday.

 

Islamic State Beheads 21 Egyptian Christians
The Wired Word for the Week of February 22, 2015

In the News

The militant group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, beheaded a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya, according to a video released last Sunday. The video shows a mass execution, with jihadists in black standing behind each of the victims, who are handcuffed and dressed in orange jumpsuits. A masked English-speaking jihadist says, “The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah, we will mix it with your blood.” Then the victims are pushed to the ground and beheaded.

Such brutality has been a hallmark of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but this violence is believed to have been carried out by a newly formed affiliate of ISIS in Libya. The Copts killed in the video had been taken hostage in Libya several weeks earlier.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, confirmed that Egyptian martyrs had fallen victim to terrorism. He called for a meeting of the Council of National Defense, expressed his condolences to the Egyptian people and scheduled seven days of official mourning. He also said that his country had the right to retaliate for the killings. On television, he said Egypt would choose the “necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday. He offered his condolences on behalf of the American people and “strongly condemned the despicable act of terror,” according to the State Department. The White House also condemned the attack, saying that the barbarity of ISIS “knows no bounds.”

Members of the United Nations Security Council also criticized “the heinous and cowardly apparent murder” of the 21 Egyptians. Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, condemned the beheadings and said, “They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians.”

On Monday, one day after the video was released, Egyptian jets bombed Islamic State targets in Libya. The pre-dawn strike hit militant camps, training sites and weapons storage areas. “We must take revenge for the Egyptian blood that was shed,” said a statement from Egypt’s military. Egypt also wants to prevent its neighbor from becoming a haven for jihadists.

Libya’s air force — which is loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government — also participated in Monday’s attack, and reported losses among Islamic State individuals, ammunition and communication centers.

Coptic Christians are part of the Orthodox Christian tradition, one of three main Christian traditions alongside Catholicism and Protestantism. Copts trace their history to the apostle Mark, the New Testament figure believed responsible for introducing Christianity to Egypt in the first century. The land of Egypt holds a special place for Coptic Christians because of the story of the flight of the family of Jesus to Egypt to escape bloodthirsty King Herod, according to the Gospel of Matthew. Copts separated from other Christians in the fifth century over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Egypt remains the home of the largest group of Copts in the world. They make up about 10 percent of the nation’s 80 million citizens, most of whom are Sunni Muslims. There are approximately 90,000 Copts in the United States, organized under 170 parishes.

Egypt is not the only Arab nation drawn into confrontation with ISIS by the gruesome killings of its citizens. Jordan has taken a leading role in air strikes in Syria and Iraq, following the release of a video showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive by ISIS.

“I demand none of them amongst us be kept alive,” said the pilot’s grieving father. “I demand the revenge be greater than executing prisoners.” A Jordanian army spokesman promised, “Our punishment and revenge will be as huge as the loss of the Jordanians.” A politician in Jordan said, “Let’s kill their children! Let’s kill their women!”

President Obama used more measured language in promising that the Islamic State will be “degraded and ultimately defeated.”

More on this story can be found at these links:

ISIS Video Appears to Show Beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. CNN News
Islamic State Video Shows Beheadings of Egyptian Christians in Libya. The New York Times
Egypt Bombs Islamic State Targets in Libya After 21 Egyptians Beheaded. Reuters
Egypt Bombs Islamic State Targets in Libya After Beheading Video. The Washington Post
Revenge From Jordan Won’t Bring Peace: Column. USA Today

The Big Questions

  1. The desire for revenge is understandable, but will it bring peace to the Middle East? Why or why not? Do you think the Jordanian and Egyptian responses break or continue the cycle of violence? What kind of military response serves the cause of justice?
  2. Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” How is this true in international affairs? In your own personal relationships?
  3. Abraham Lincoln advised that the best way to destroy an enemy is to turn him into a friend. Where have you seen this happen in history? In the life of the church? In your personal life?
  4. After the beheadings, The White House said,“We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat.” What, if anything, can Americans do to befriend Libyans and turn them away from ISIS?
  5. What can American Christians do to show support for Egyptian Christians? How can you work to unite Christians across national and denominational lines?
  6. When do you feel tempted to seek revenge? How can your Christian faith help you to rechannel this desire? How can forgiveness break the cycle of violence?

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:

Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (For context, read 19:11-18.)

God gives Moses and the Israelites instructions in moral holiness, including the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This love is connected to prohibitions against stealing, lying, defrauding, slandering and rendering unjust judgments. Also prohibited is the taking of vengeance and bearing of grudges. In short, Moses teaches that we should treat our neighbors exactly as we would like to be treated.

Questions: After having evil done to you, what would it mean to respond with love instead of vengeance? When hurt by another, what is the benefit of offering forgiveness instead of bearing a grudge?

Proverbs 16:7
When the ways of people please the LORD, he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them. (For context, read 16:1-8.)

The Book of Proverbs challenges us to see the world through God’s eyes, instead of through human eyes. When we do this, we “commit [our] work to the LORD” (v. 3) and trust that the arrogant “will not go unpunished” (v. 5). We discover that “a little with righteousness” is better than “large income with injustice” (v. 8). Proverbs predicts that such a way of life can lead to reconciliation with enemies.

Questions: What does it mean to see the world through God’s eyes and focus on his righteousness? How could our ways be more pleasing to God, and what effect might this have on our enemies?

Matthew 5:43-44
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. (For context, read 5:38-48.)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges us to set aside the old standard “an eye for an eye” and instead follow the guidance “Do not resist an evildoer” (vv. 38-39). The Levitical standard “love your neighbor” is replaced by the commandment “love your enemies.” Jesus offers this instruction so that we may be children of our Father in heaven (v. 45).

Questions: How is justice served by the maxim “an eye for an eye”? What problems does it cause? How can love of enemies diminish violence? At what cost? When have you been able to show love to an enemy, and what was the result?

Luke 9:51-55
When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. (No context needed.)

Jews and Samaritans shared the same religious roots, just as Jews, Christians and Muslims all trace their spiritual heritage to Abraham. But there was disagreement between Jews and Samaritans, and often a lack of mutual respect. The desire of James and John to see the inhospitable Samaritans destroyed was an understandable reaction, given the conflict between these groups.

Questions: Why does Jesus rebuke his disciples? What message is he giving us about anger and revenge? In your opinion, what kind of relationship did Jesus want to have with the Samaritans?

Luke 23:34
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (For context, read 23:32-43.)

Jesus is crucified between two criminals, and asks God to forgive the people who are putting him to death. He grasps that his killers are acting out of ignorance as well as malice. Jesus also shows compassion to the criminal who asks to be remembered in the kingdom of God, saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43).

Questions: What motivates Jesus to forgive the people who are killing him on the cross? How does this act affect the people around him? What is the impact of forgiveness on violence? Where do you see opportunities to practice the forgiveness of Jesus?

Romans 12:19-20
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” (For context, read 12:9-21.)

Paul tells the Romans about the marks of a true Christian: love, honor, zeal, patience, perseverance and hospitality. He also says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought of what is noble in the sight of all” (v. 17). He concludes by recommending that they leave the work of vengeance to God, and make an effort to overcome evil with good.

Questions: What is the significance of letting God show vengeance, instead of taking it into our own hands? How do you conquer your enemies by showing kindness to them? When have you done this in your own life?

1 Peter 3:9
Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. (For context, read 3:8-22.)

Peter tells his followers to repay evildoers with a blessing because “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous” (v. 12). He predicts that “even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed” (v. 14). Peter encourages us to make our Christian testimonies with gentleness and reverence, and to be willing to suffer for doing good. This puts us in line with our Lord Jesus, who “was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (v. 18).

Questions: What is the value of suffering to a Christian? When have you experienced a blessing after suffering for doing what is right? In concrete ways, how can we repay evildoers with a blessing? What does it mean to be made alive in the spirit?

For Further Discussion

  1. In the pursuit of justice, how can a good offense be the best defense? When you strike back at someone who is trying to kill you, is that “revenge”? Why or why not? How should the United States work to degrade and defeat ISIS?
  2. The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom has said we must pray for and forgive Islamic State militants in the wake of the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by the terrorist group. “I think as Christians that’s our mandate, it’s what we do,” Bishop Angaelos told Christianity Today. “Of course it will sometimes go against what people want, but as Christians we must forgive. … If we don’t forgive what do we have? Retaliation, resentment and anger, but no solution and no closure.” The bishop remains adamant that “every life is sacred and every death tragic,” including those of militants. “The particular brutality demonstrated in this instance and others like it shows not only a disregard for life but a gross misunderstanding of its sanctity and equal value in every person.” Discuss.
  3. If Christians take the position that ISIS should be wiped out, are they preventing jihadists from having the chance to repent and receive salvation? What are the implications of saying that some people are irredeemable? Should we be motivated so much by the drive for self-preservation that we cannot begin to conceive of the possibility that God could use martyrs to win over even some of the worst terrorists?
  4. A member of The Wired Word editorial team just finished reading the book I Shall Not Hate, by a Palestinian Muslim physician who lost three daughters to misdirected Israeli bombs. From his story, she learned, “Revenge begets revenge. One might think there is justice in responding to terror with warfare but it ultimately leads to further killing.” Where have you seen revenge continuing to drive the cycle of violence? When is warfare effective, and when is it ineffective? How can bloodshed be stopped?
  5. In Dubai, five dialogues have been held between Muslims and Christians since 2005. They began when 120 students gathered in a lecture hall to discuss religious differences, and in 2013, over 700 people discussed the question “How can we find forgiveness from a holy God?” Said one young man from the Middle East, “All of the problems and troubles and fights happening in the world is because there is no forgiveness.” How could forgiveness help alleviate problems and troubles in the world? In your community? In your church?
  6. A nonprofit called “Bridges of Understanding” arranges videoconferences between high school students in the United States and the Middle East. The divide between Americans and Arabs is bridged by a focus on commonalities. “I was so surprised to find out that the Arab students seemed to be completely normal,” said one American student, “and similar to me.” Where do you see value in this type of dialogue? How could you be involved in such conversations, locally or internationally?

Responding to the News

Following the teachings of Jesus, take time to pray for those who persecute you. Reach out to someone from a different race, culture or religion, and try to establish a relationship. Focus on someone who has been an enemy to you, and think of ways that you might be reconciled and even become friends.

Closing Prayer

Help us, Lord, to overcome evil with good, and to reach out in Christian love to those who seek to do us harm. May we build relationships that break the cycle of violence in our homes, churches and world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.