As I write this on February 16, 2015, I am struck at how three numbers defined the last few days.
50 Shades of Grey: The movie adaptation of the book was released this weekend.
40: Saturday Night Live held a three-hour special on Sunday night to celebrate its fortieth anniversary on air.
21: The number of Coptic Christians who were beheaded by the Islamic terrorist group ISIS.
As believers, all of these events should register on our personal radar screens. But, they are not worthy of equal attention. The least of all of my concerns is Saturday Night Live. It has been standard programming for most of my life. Its seasons come and go with little notice for me any longer. But I must recognize that it is the force that normalized satirizing our American culture as a whole. SNL has paved the way for people like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon. It took satirical critique of politics and culture to a new level. Sometimes I’ve laughed and sometimes I’ve cringed. But, over the last few years, mostly, I’ve simply ignored it. SNL tries to make itself relevant and profitable and popular all at the same time.
Though the authors, producers, and distribution companies would like us to believe that the 50 Shades of Grey movie is something new… it is not. Pornography in its various forms has been around for centuries. Even in the modern movie-making age, there is nothing new about it. The book and movie do nothing but represent the sexual deviancy of a society that eschews modesty, self-control, and love in its true form.
The number that the entire world should turn its attention toward is 21. On Sunday morning, the Islamic terrorist group ISIS released a video showing 21 Coptic Christians being marched down a beach and then each beheaded. The image of their blood washing into the sea was meant to strike fear into the hearts of the Christian world. In response, military action has been taken. Families are mourning. The world is horrified.
For me, numbers always lead to words. It is my first impulse to find the quotes from such events that help us get to their reason. What one quote will help us understand why it happened?
For 50 Shades of Grey, I just don’t know that there are any quotes from the movie or book that I want to search for and post. It seems to be all sexual encounters masked as erotica but really just emotional abuse and sexual assault. As the father of two sons, I pray that we’ve raised them better than to treat a woman in such a violent, selfish, depraved manner.
From SNL’s show, it is just the retread of all of their other jokes that they’ve told for the last 40 years. Politicians are terrible. Unless they want to be on our show. Musicians are weird. Unless they want to play on our show. The world is a comically-tragic place so laugh at your own life with us.
For the 21 Coptic Christians who died because of their faith in Christ, we can finally discover words that will help. It is not found in the threats of the murders. It is not found in the response from heads of state or military leaders. I find comfort in this word of encouragement found in Revelation 12:7-12.
7 Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels also fought, 8 but he could not prevail, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was thrown out—the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
The salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of His Messiah
have now come,
because the accuser of our brothers
has been thrown out:
the one who accuses them
before our God day and night.
11 They conquered him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not love their lives
in the face of death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell in them!
Woe to the earth and the sea,
for the Devil has come down to you
with great fury,
because he knows he has a short time.
The number of books, commentaries, and sermons that cover the book of Revelation is too many to number. I normally summarize it like this: Jesus wins and we win with Him. As a result of their martyrdom, the 21 Coptic Christians are more alive now in the presence of God than they ever were in this life. As their families mourn over their violent deaths, it is a call for believers everywhere to increase our faith and mobilize as a church.
The names of the slain Christians were released by the Coptic Church’s Bishop Anba Ermia on Twitter, and translated into English by D.C.-based lawyer Mai El-Sadany. Let me encourage you to say a prayer for their families.
- Milad Makeen Zaky
- Abanub Ayad Atiya
- Maged Solaiman Shehata
- Yusuf Shukry Yunan
- Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
- Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
- Somaily Astafanus Kamel
- Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
- Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
- Girgis Milad Sinweet
- Mina Fayez Aziz
- Hany Abdelmesih Salib
- Bishoy Adel Khalaf
- Samuel Alham Wilson
- Worker from Awr village
- Ezat Bishri Naseef
- Loqa Nagaty
- Gaber Munir Adly
- Esam Badir Samir
- Malak Farag Abram
- Sameh Salah Faruq
As you move through your days, my encouragement to you is to keep a watch on the culture but your faith in the gospel. In times of cultural decline and Christian martyrdom, Jesus will always be enough, always be our hope, and always strengthen us to the very end of the age.