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Forgiving through the fire


Saint Elijah's Monastery in Mosul, Iraq. Dated to the sixth century, it is the oldest monastery in Iraq. Photo: Doug/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Saint Elijah’s Monastery in Mosul, Iraq. Dated to the sixth century, it is the oldest monastery in Iraq. Photo: Doug/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Earlier this month, Islamic extremists burned a 12-year old Christian girl to death.

She was living in Mosul, Iraq with her family when ISIS terrorists showed up at their home demanding the Coptic Christian family pay jizya.

The jizya is a tax that over the centuries Muslims have forced Christians and Jews living in their territory to pay. The Muslim Qur’an mentions jizya , but does not specify how much the tax should be.

Traditionally, it has been looked upon as a tax non-Muslims pay to practice their faith in Muslim countries. If paid, it is supposed to protect Christians from Muslim attacks.  It also indicates that the people being taxed are in submission to their Muslim rulers.

Some Muslim Imams (teachers) even consider it a form of punishment for not being Muslim.

Most Muslim nations do not impose the jizya, but it has made an appearance recently in areas controlled by ISIS and the Taliban.

According to the British Newspaper The Express, when the jihadists showed up they demanded the family pay the tax or  leave. The mother said they would pay, but that she needed a few seconds as her daughter was in the shower.

The ISIS terrorists replied that she did not have a few seconds and immediately used a torch to set the house on fire. Though the mother and daughter were able to escape, the daughter was so badly burned, the family took her to the hospital, where she later died in her mother’s arms.

Human rights advocate Jacqueline Isaac told The Express, that the last words the girl said to her mother was “forgive them.”

How could a mother forgive these brutal murderers?

But for a Christian, forgiving others is not an option.

Jesus told his disciples that if they did not forgive others for offenses, then God would NOT forgive them their transgressions (Matthew 6:14-15). Hanging on the cross, Jesus practiced what He preached and asked His Heavenly Father to forgive those involved in His execution (Luke 23:34).

Because unforgiveness is such a serious issue for Christians it is important that we recognize its symptoms so we can forgive.

One of the key indicators is anger, particularly when it exceeds the situation that caused it.

The Apostle Paul writes:

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.Ephesian 4:31-32

Paul talks about putting away bitterness, anger and wrath and says that we need to be tender-hearted to others. He explains how we are to do this — by forgiving  others, just as God has forgiven you.

Anger is related to unforgiveness.

My wife and I were visiting with a Christian couple several years ago. I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but the husband suddenly exploded in am emotion of rage.

His faced turned red and eyes became livid. He was almost shouting and his wife, like us, was shocked by the outburst.

I asked him why he became so angry about our conversation.

He couldn’t give an answer, because he didn’t have one. There was no way our discussion could spark such outrage and anger. The anger exceeded the situation.

The reason he exploded was because our conversation triggered a long-held resentment that he had not forgiven or forgotten. He was not angry about what we were talking about, he was still enraged about what had happened years earlier.

He had long-held offenses that he still needed to forgive.




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