2004-09-09 - What was the Difference?
Matt 25:40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' (NAS)
Very few people had heard of the little town of Beslan until this past week. Life had moved on quietly through the streets and shops from year to year in rural seclusion. I'm sure a lot of the people who live there would go back to that life if they could. But there is no way to do that. The obvious statement is that there is no way to turn back time. There is also no way to completely heal the shattered lives of the families who lost spouses, brothers and sisters in this life. The residents and relatives mourn the deaths of friends, family and neighbors.
The hardest to bear were the losses of well over one hundred children. Some where shot in the back by snipers on the roof of the school building where they had been taken captive as the children tried to escape. It was the first day of school. It was a hopeful day turned to shock and grief. All those taken hostage were refused both food and water and even the dignity of toilet facilities. Children would simply collapse due to dehydration, hunger, or exhaustion from physical and emotional stress.
The torment of the children seemed to please some of the terrorists according to some eyewitness accounts. I wondered to myself how this was possible. In most adults there is an almost built in defense mechanism to defend children and others who can not defend themselves. What happened to this group that would go so far to the opposite end as to enjoy seeing a child in such obvious distress knowing they had caused it?
Who or what had so horribly misled them? How were they convinced that this was something that should be done? Had they never, ever heard the Gospel? I believe there are sections of Islam that exclude women and children targets of war. It is impossible to know what happened to most of the attackers. Only three were captured. A few, almost incredibly, may have escaped the scene.
Then the most devastating thoughts came to mind. Scenes of people not prepared to meet God in eternity. The one gleaming hopeful thought is how open Russia has been to Christianity and religion in general after 70 years of official state-imposed atheism. Some walked into Heaven into the arms of a waiting Savior. Many did not. I'm sure many of those who did not were good people, friendly, helpful and trying to make a better life for themselves and those around them. Their lives were cut short, at least from our view, ending their chance to say yes to Jesus as Savior and Lord.
And then what of the terrorists? Most of them walked into eternity as well. They too were people for Whom Christ had bleed and died to save from the Hell that they now faced. Imagine the shock thinking they had died for the cause opening their eyes unable to change the mistake that was now so undeniable. To be separated from the love of God for all eternity would be awful enough. Added to that the memory of the children they killed as their final acts in their mortal lives could, if possible, make the agony even worse.
Pray for missionaries here and abroad. Support them if you are able. Learn how to tell others about Jesus and the good news of salvation. Incorporate your faith naturally into your life so that it makes a difference that draws other people to you wanting to know what makes you different. No banners of brass bands are required. The ability to lean on your faith in difficult times, and share the happiness you have with others, or to be willing to go a little further to help someone in need without expectation of reward or acclaim are things the world does not easily understand. It goes contrary to the common view of getting ahead in life, on the job and in the world in general. We are Ambassadors representing a very different, but very real Kingdom.
Jesus refered to very simple things like a cup of water to someone who is thirsty as something that He deemed important - making a difference. You may be the lighthouse that is used to prepare someone's soul for eternity, or the guiding hand that turns someone from a path that will go horribly wrong. We may never know the impact we have on the lives of others, especially those we barely encounter, until eternity. A few will be surprised to find they are surrounded by people wanting to thank them for making a difference in their lives.
Make a difference.