In the book of Acts, Saul tried to stamp out the church, but found his efforts only served to spread the Gospel farther.  Eventually, Saul himself converted (Acts 8-9).  This is hardly the only time persecution of Christians had the opposite of intended effects.  An African Christian of the second century, Tertullian, claimed that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Several weeks ago, we watched 21 Christian Egyptians martyred by ISIS.  It appears the effect on the world is not quite what was intended.  Feb 18, Christianity Today ran an article with the sub-head “With Their Blood, They Are Unifying Egypt.”  The article detailed the “strong response of unity and sympathy” Christians received from Egypt.

The following week Christianity Today released another article about how Christians were witnessing to their faith.  This article highlights a tract “Two Rows by the Sea” with a powerful message:

Who fears the other?
The row in orange, watching paradise open?
Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?

Now, Vatican Radio adds a surprising detail.  Among the 21 martyrs was a man from Chad, who was not originally a Christian.  He saw the 20 kidnapped Christians and was inspired by their faith.  He wanted to join them and did, being killed himself.

This is what we mean by “cross purposes.”  The world means to end Christ’s rule (Psalm 2).  But the world’s best shot ends up being turned to good by God.  So, Paul learned, “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

That “weakness” was first and always, Christ crucified.  But we are privileged to join Him in weakness in various ways.  Some are called to the weakness of forgiving those who have inflicted great pain.  May God fill our hearts with the warmth of mercy.  Some are called to the weakness of service.  May God fill our bodies with endurance.  Some are called to martyrdom.  May God give courage in the Spirit.  More- may the blood of the martyrs be a seed to convert our enemies and raise up workers in the kingdom as mighty as the Apostle Paul.  Amen.