Giving Back their Names: Getting to the Heart of the Story

After reading horrific news reports surrounding the lives of 219 girls from Chibok, Nigeria– and countless more, from all over both the Northern and Southern regions of Nigeria– I am filled with an angry, bitter grief.

Grief at the fact that the Nigerian government could not seem to care less about the more than 500 human beings from their country that have vanished since the beginning of the insurgency in 2013. Grief at the fact that real people with names– names, and thoughts, and immense value to the Lord God– have been reduced to mere numbers and news reports in many minds, including my own. It is too easy to rant about the impersonal way these women have been treated in the media, and I realize I’ve become apart of the problem. Names and faces have become too hard to publish, too lengthy to write about; instead, headlines, littered with tragedy in bolded font, group each deeply unique individual into one common name, “the Chibok girls.” We get the story, sure– but very rarely do we feel moved by what is happening across the world. Very rarely do we get to the heart of the story.

Because it hurts to care. It hurts to become vulnerable to such a deep suffering, to let statistics become personal. The stories of these young women are tragic, heard all too often: women having to take part in the abductions and murders of others shocks one beyond comprehension; hearing news that women, valued only for the fact that they are young virgins, have been married off to their captors and forced to cook, carry bullets, and perform sexually degrading acts daily seems too harsh a reality for us to live in, too painful to let ourselves feel. All of it is ugly, it is evil, and it is wrong. And yet, 9 months after their abduction, despite the absolute depraved injustice of these acts, seemingly nothing has been done for their cause. “The Chibok girls” remain largely nameless, faceless, melted into the oblivion of life’s headlines, marred by what they are enduring.

Who is willing to step into the darkness? Who is willing to care, to get to the heart of the story?

As followers of Christ, we are called to deeply love others, no matter the immense pain it may cause us to be vulnerable. We are called to care about those who are marginalized in society, rejected and abused. With hands and hearts wide open, the Holy Spirit urges us to “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable” (Proverbs 31:8, CEB). We cannot do this by our own efforts– or in our own strength. As Acts 1:8 states, we are to do so relying on Jesus, through the power of His Holy Spirit:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8, NIV)

We, because of our faith in Christ, don’t have to be afraid of being vulnerable. Instead, we can hold and help those in pain, knowing that Christ is with us. Jesus doesn’t just command us to imitate Him, He commands us to emanate Him: By letting Him do His will in and through our lives, the nameless, uncared for victims in society will experience Jesus’ love for them in profound ways. No longer will they be the faceless, the victimized, and the forgotten; by Jesus’ redemptive work, they will become who they’ve always been: deeply and intimately known, healed, and greatly valued by Christ. No longer will their tragedies define them; they will be defined by what Christ has done for them by dying on the cross, the ultimate expression of His love for us.

“The Chibok girls” must know that they are not just a passing headline. The 219 uniquely individual young girls still in captivity, along with Boko Haram’s countless other unnamed victims, must know that the Lord our God values them as more than just plunder, virgins, or a man’s possession. They need their names back. Let us resolve to lovingly make sure they get them back, in the power of Jesus’ name. 

Do you know Christ?

You are a deeply known and dearly loved by God. You may not have ever heard that before– and maybe you don’t believe it for a second– but it doesn’t make it any less true. In His Word, God shows us how much He truly loves us:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
(Romans 5:8, NIV)

Christ died for you. You may look at this fact and ask, “Why would He have to do that?” Even when you feel on top of the world and completely self-sufficient, the Word of God– and your own conscience– tells you that you are imperfect. All men have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, NIV). This imperfection, called sin (introduced when Adam and Eve willfully disobeyed God in Genesis 3), eternally separated all of mankind from knowing God personally, and brought on death (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 6:23, NIV).

Over time, people tried to have right standing with God through the sacrificing of animals, giving of money, and striving to obey the Law of Moses perfectly. In time, though, this created men who had become so obsessed with obedience to the Law that they had completely missed the point of the Law: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8, NIV). This didn’t please God; in fact, when Jesus entered the world, He called these men a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:30-33, NIV). Jesus, the son of God, God in human flesh, came to do what we (and anything in this entire existence) could never do ourselves: make mankind right with God through being completely sinless, and shedding His own blood for our sin (1 John 4:15; John 10:30-33; 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). He did this out of love, to reconcile us to God the Father (John 3:16, NIV). Humbling Himself in the form of a man, God Himself took away all of our sin and shame through dying an unimaginably cruel, undignified, humiliating death (1 Peter 3:8, NIV).

Jesus didn’t stay dead, though. No; because even our sin and the death it produced couldn’t keep it’s hold on Him, He rose from the dead the third day after His crucifixion. In glorious victory, Christ defeated sin and death forever, making those who believed that He is who He said He was eternally right with God (1 Corinthians 15:4, NIV). Christ said that all the work we’ll ever need to do is to believe on Him alone for the forgiveness of all our sin (John 6:29, NIV). Those who confess their need for Him and believe in Him inherit eternal life, and are equipped with the Holy Spirit, who enables them to live the lives Christ wants us to live: In gratitude of His sacrifice, full of love, and acting in freedom, joy, compassion, and humble service for others (John 14:15-27, Romans 10:9, NIV). These people cannot ever lose their salvation, and it is by faith in God’s sacrifice and grace alone that we are saved (John 8:29; John 6:39; Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).

Christ came to set the captives free, to heal the broken, and to reconcile lives spent far away from Him to Himself. Those who believe this in their hearts and confess it with their mouths will be saved (Romans 10:9, NIV). If you’ve accepted the love of Christ and believe this amazing story in your heart, that’s wonderful; to confess it with your mouth, say this simple prayer with me, or say one of your own:

Dear Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God, God in human flesh. I believe that you came to this world to die for our sin, and rose again on the third day. I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed; because of this, I am guilty and deserve eternal separation from You– hell (2 Thessalonians 1:9, NIV). But I pray here, now, that you would forgive me of my sin, make me right with You, and help me to live a Holy (set-apart) life for You from now on. Thank You, Lord Jesus. In Your name I pray, Amen.

If you have prayed this prayer and believe in your heart that Christ is who He said He was, you have now become a child of God, are made right with Him, and are free to have a personal, Loving relationship with Him for the rest of your life (and then after!). There is no guilt or condemnation in Christ Jesus; instead, there is only grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, and freedom to live a Holy life for Him. Your past sin and shame can no longer condemn you– you are a new creation (Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 15:7, NIV)! Christ loves you– while your new relationship with Him doesn’t mean you’ll never sin again, or that life will be void of trouble, it does mean that He will walk with you every step of the way– through valley and on hilltops alike (John 16:33, NIV). He will help you to resist temptation, forgive others, and follow God’s call found in Micah 6:8. In this new love relationship, He will continually make you into the person you are called to be through trusting and obeying Him (Hebrews 10:14, NIV).

When God’s love and salvation are accepted by someone, you can’t help but tell others the good news of it all! Jesus has called us to have friendships with believers and nonbelievers alike, so that we can share the good news with those we love and bring them to Christ through the power of Christ’s Spirit living in us (Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15, NIV). Pray that Jesus would provide opportunities for you to share His love, grace and gospel with others around you!

Be strong, knowing that Christ is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9, NIV). Be blessed in your walk with Him! 🙂

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