*Photo by Tonya Toutge
The good news out of Egypt today is that yesterday, as Coptic Christians attended Christmas services in Egypt, Muslims were there protecting them as "human shields." Though there was momentary fighting in Alexandria on New Year's Eve (and I admit I painted a negative picture because of that news), apparently Christians and Muslims throughout Egypt have "united," for lack of a better word. They're taking a stand together against the extremists. Crosses and crescents started appearing together to show solidarity.
We mark the day with different events:
In the sacredness of relationships
Our church has a strong community feel to it as it is, but gathering around the table together makes that sense all the stronger. It's different than just sitting in pews, even though we all still take communion together in that setting. It's bonding to journey to the table and serve one another. We all come together, united as members of one body. Christ gave His body and blood for each of individually, but He also died for the collective church that we may be One in Him. Each week we come to the table. Each week we participate "in remembrance." Each week we are reminded that our sins are forgiven, that we are under the new covenant. Each week we are reminded how much God loves us. Each and every one.
- G.K. Chesterton
Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.
- Benjamin Franklin
In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, never in want.
- Irish toast
Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given;
While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth
- Martin Luther
In the wake of the New Year's bombing, they [the Egyptian Christians] unleashed their rage at authorities.
"Now it's between Christians and the government, not between Muslims and Christians,'' shrieked one Christian woman as several hundred young men clashed with helmeted riot police in the street outside the targeted church hours after the blast. As the rioters threw stones and bottles, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them. Some of the protesters beat Muslim passers-by. (from the AP article as linked above)
Violence against Christians is expected (not condoned, of course, but Christ did warn us that we would be persecuted). Violence from Christians is inexcusable. We are called to be peacemakers, to turn the other cheek, to love our enemy. Violence against us will never end if we keep paying "an eye for an eye."
Lest we point fingers at typical violence in the Middle East, let us ask ourselves how we would respond. Would we want vengeance or would we offer forgiveness. Consider how much violence Christians have caused throughout history--often in the name of Jesus.
May today not just be a day of world peace, but a day we offer prayer for peace in all the years to come. In this new year, may we keep one resolution: to be Jesus' disciple, to love God and love others.