It is a short work, but full of riches, as Lutzer examines the last words of Jesus, cried out in anguish as He hung on the cross.
For example, he relates, in the early centuries after Jesus, Christianity “captured” North Africa, thanks to the “love of the Christians that defied explanation.”
Thus, when Christians found dead bodies abandoned in the street they washed them and gave them a decent burial. “The pagans were impressed with these unexplained acts of love.”
It reminded me of Shusaku Endo’s great novel “The Silence” (soon to be released as a movie by Martin Scorsese), with his strikingly similar depiction of the attraction of Christianity for 16th-century Japanese peasants.
I tell you the truth – for a long, long time these farmers have worked like horses and cattle; and like horses and cattle they have died. The reason our religion has penetrated this territory like water flowing into dry earth is that it has given to this group of people a human warmth they never previously knew. For the first time they have met men who treated them like human beings. It was the human kindness and charity of the fathers that touched their hearts.
And yet – Christianity was later eradicated from both North Africa and Japan through force of arms (as is occurring right now in parts of the Middle East). Remnants remain in both regions, but they are small and without much influence.
Is it really enough just to have a love that defies explanation? Do Christians not need something more? Like our own armies? Or is intense persecution simply the cross we must always bear?
One of the members of my group commented last night that God surely has a purpose in allowing the depravities of ISIS that we are witnessing in the Middle East.
At times like these I am thrown back on Isaiah:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”