The Mark of the Nazarene

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“Where do you come from?” I often hear this question. Some ask if I am from Australia or South Africa. The truth is I was raised in a pastoral family in the UK and grew up with an English accent. The question of where we come from is important because it can say a lot about our allegiances. When I first went to the Middle East to work for a year after high school, I was very much an Englishman abroad, a loyal subject of Queen Elizabeth II, a speaker of the Queen’s English, a connoisseur of cricket and a lover of marmite on toast.

But allegiances can change. Over my many years of service worldwide, God has graciously given me a deep appreciation for Phil. 3.20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV).

Revelation 12-14 tells us that, just before Jesus returns, allegiances worldwide will split along spiritual lines, between those who are faithful to God through persecution and those who follow the beast. Some scoff, saying a worldwide division of allegiances along spiritual lines could never happen. But it already is happening in Iraq.

In Iraq today, jihadis from many nations are raping and butchering any who do not share their Muslim ideology. Christians are their primary target. This summer in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, ISIS issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Christians: Convert to Islam, pay the jizya (a tax on non-Muslims), or die. With red spray paint, ISIS militants emblazoned the Arabic letter ن (N) on all Christian property to be seized after the ultimatum. ن is the first letter of an Arabic word for Christians, “Nasrani” or Nazarene. Mosul is now Christian-free.

Around the world, horrified Christians are showing their solidarity with the suffering Christians of Iraq by adopting the hashtag #WeAreN or posting the ن symbol in their Twitter and Facebook accounts. This month, this symbol is on our magazine cover, and we at AFM continue to minister directly to the displaced victims of ISIS’ murderous rage, building desperately needed latrines and shower blocks and distributing winter relief items. (Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support!)

Could persecution of those who bear the name of Christ arise elsewhere? Yes! Across the West, tolerance is decreasing for those who adhere to the Word of God on questions of marriage, and it is only a matter of time before the other God-given and God-defined institution from creation—the seventh-day Sabbath—is attacked as well. Like the persecuted Christians of Iraq, it is time for us to decide our ultimate allegiance once and for all. Do we owe primary allegiance to any earthly power, or to the Kingdom of God? In response to the question, “Where do you come from?” there can be only one answer for all born-again Seventh-day Adventist disciples of Christ: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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