Injustice. It is everywhere, in the huge and in the small. Sunday morning, it visited a church in Southeast Nigeria.
Imagine. Your closely known brothers and sisters in Jesus meet with you like they do every Sunday, at your local church.
These are people that you hopefully do life with. People you worship Christ with. People who wrestle with the difficult things with you.
People you eat with, cry with, and laugh with. People you love.
And then– gunmen enter the building that houses the Church. Men, looking for one person, barge in, and kill these people. People you love. The sanctuary becomes a place of violence; a place of joy quickly becomes a place of bloodshed, a place where you lost those closest to you.
This Sunday morning, August 6th, 2017, St. Philips Catholic Church was attacked by men who are in the drug-trafficking business of southeast Nigeria. 11 churchgoers were killed when these men started shooting randomly inside the church, in pursuit of someone they thought was in the church building. He was not there (source).
Today, it was not just St. Philips Catholic Church in Ozubulu, Anambra state that suffered damage. It was not torn down architecture; it was a group of people, united in Christ– the true meaning of “the Church”– that passed away, and are now in the presence of their Lord and Savior.
In Hebrews 10:24-25, Jesus gives, through the writer of Hebrews, a very encouraging command– not one to be dreaded, or merely “checked off a list,” but joyfully done.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
(Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)
Today, the concept of church is too often seen as a corporation, or somewhere one goes to only on special holidays. But Christ had a very different design for the worldwide Church: it is His bride, and it is meant to be a safe place– a place where much of the process of discipleship and sanctification takes place, as Christ-followers seek to do life together, pursuing Christ all the more.
Though this is not always what happens, it is the goal. Like the early church of Antioch in Acts 11, the church is not just a building or a money-making system… it is a group of Believers in Christ, the One, True, Living God, living lives of Love and generosity to bless those around them (Galatians 6:10). During the famine in Jerusalem, the church of Antioch– the first church of gentile believers– generously gave of their own money to help the church in Judea, after a church member in Antioch named Agabus prophesied that there would be a famine in Jerusalem (you can read more about it here). Christ’s Love had so welled up in their hearts that their entire lives were changed; it was no longer about what one could gain from the church, but how one could generously give to those in need in the Church.
In this, two beautiful truths are found: We, as Christians, need consistent time with one another; and that the church is not supposed to look like the world, but the Church is supposed to love the world, as Christ did.
It is with all of this in mind, and an extremely heavy heart, that I write about what happened in Southeast Nigeria, Sunday. A group of men and women who believed in Christ were killed on Sunday, together. And it is with care, yet firm encouragement, that I write to my brothers and sisters in Christ: Do not forsake the fellowship of the saints.
You may have been scarred by the church.
You may have never been in a church where you felt like you belonged, and were loved.
You may be of the persuasion that you can walk this walk, alone, without a church body to love and help you (and visa versa).
But friends, I am here to tell you the Truth of the matter: I do not want to disregard the fact that you may have been hurt or jaded by your church experiences. But though you may be extremely scarred, and though you may have been tossed aside by some in the Church, you cannot walk this walk alone. You need deep fellowship with Christ, and with other Christians.
“For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20, NIV). Brothers and sisters in Jesus, we need each other. I pray, as I pray for these brothers and sisters in Southeast Nigeria, that you– and everyone else reading– would come to know Christ, and would come to know the joy of being in fellowship with one another.
As this body of believers is suffering the deep loss of their loved ones, may they be our loved ones too. Our Jesus never promised a life without the pain of injustice (John 16:33)– but he did promise us fellowship with Himself, and command that we do life with the people He has given us. May we receive His gift of other believers, gladly; and may we pray for, and mourn with, those in Southeast Nigeria who have lost these loved ones.
“…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. …Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
(Romans 12:5, 15, NIV)
Do you know Jesus?
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33, NIV)
Perhaps one of the most beautiful things in this life is relationships with other human beings; but, without a doubt, the most wonderful thing in this life is having a personal relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
You may be thinking, “A person can have a relationship with God, without having Jesus in the picture.” But, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
(John 14:6. NIV).
Jesus came to earth, as God-in-human-flesh, to provide sinful mankind with the one way to know God the Father personally. Learn more about Jesus, and why He came to earth to fulfill this mission, by going here.
Please pray with me…
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for the people You have put in our lives, near and far from us. Thank You for the Church at large. Thank You for Loving us, and helping us to love others.
We pray in Your Name over all things that have happened in Southeast Nigeria, at St. Philip’s Catholic Church. Please hold the members of this church body close to Your Heart; please comfort them, and guide them as they grieve.
We pray for an end to the violence and destruction in Nigeria– and know that it can only come through all people coming to know You. Without You, Jesus, there is no Peace– please help us to share Your Gospel, and please bring us all closer to You.
Thank You for each person who knows You, Lord– please bring back the Chibok girls, as well as the thousands of others who are still in captivity. Please move mightily in their midst.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Thank you for your prayers!!!