The Redemptive Power of the Tongue2
In the previous four articles I’ve focused on what James says about the power and perversion of the human tongue. As one example of its life-changing power, consider this story of 11 Christians in Aleppo, Syria, who were brutally tortured and martyred by ISIS (the story is reported by Annie Cotton of Christian Aid Mission). Continue reading . . .
In the previous four articles I’ve focused on what James says about the power and perversion of the human tongue. As one example of its life-changing power, consider this story of 11 Christians in Aleppo, Syria, who were brutally tortured and martyred by ISIS (the story is reported by Annie Cotton of Christian Aid Mission).
Although the Christians had every opportunity to flee the city, they chose to stay and maintain their witness for Jesus. They were told that if they would but verbally deny Jesus they would be spared. “Every time we talked to them,” the ministry director said, “they were always saying, 'We want to stay here—this is what God has told us to do. This is what we want to do.' They just wanted to stay and share the gospel.”
The Christian workers were captured on August 7 and on August 28, 2015, were given one final chance to save their lives: simply renounce Jesus Christ and return to Islam. They refused to deny their Lord and Savior. Three of the men were brutalized and then crucified, their bodies left on the crosses for two days.
The other ministry team members, including two women, were taken to another site in the village that day and were asked the same questions before a crowd: “Will you deny Jesus?” The women refused. They were repeatedly raped in public. During the ordeal the women continued to pray aloud and profess their faith in Jesus. As they all knelt before being beheaded, they persisted in their prayers.
Villagers reported that some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord's Prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus. "One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, 'Jesus!'" After they were beheaded, their bodies were hung on crosses. Eyewitnesses reported that “they kept on praying loudly and sharing Jesus until their last breath. They did this in front of the villagers as a testimony for others."
The ministry director also told of a Muslim from northern Syria who, like all men in areas that ISIS takes over, was coerced into joining the caliphate or be killed. Recruited into ISIS, he fled the country after his brother was killed in the fighting. Disillusioned with ISIS but still adhering to Islam and its teaching that Christians and Jews are unclean "pigs," he went to Amman, Jordan, as he had learned that relatives there were receiving aid from Christians.
The Muslim went to a Christian meeting with the intention of killing the aid workers gathered there. Something kept him from following through on his plan, though, and that night he saw Jesus in a dream. The next day he returned and said, “I came to kill you, but last night I saw Jesus, and I want to know what you are teaching—who is this One who held me up from killing you?” He then received Christ with tears, and today is serving the church and providing aid to those who are persecuted.
I share this all too common story of what is happening today as an example of the great power of the tongue in bearing witness to Jesus. In the face of unbelievable torture and eventual martyrdom, these men and women verbally testified to the saving grace and sovereign Lordship of Jesus. Why? Because their hearts had been transformed. In the absence of an inward change, they would have found it quite easy to deny Jesus, to renounce him, and thereby to gain their lives. But in this case, transformed hearts, hearts captivated by the beauty and majesty of Jesus, led to testimony and praise and prayer that undoubtedly baffled their persecutors and eventually, no doubt, led some of them to faith in Christ.
Jesus was so right when he said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Their hearts were abundantly full of the grace and mercy of Christ, and from such hearts they spoke life and joy and hope.
To what use are you putting your tongue?