Teaching Scripture in the Context of ISIS

By Joseph N*, Aug 4, 2020

I was sitting with a group of a new of believers in the Middle East teaching about leadership. They had recently come together for study and worship and were hungry for God’s Word. We were trying to encourage them to be leaders of their group. 

We were studying the story of Nehemiah and his heart to lead for God’s glory and the good of the people. As we read chapter four where those rebuilding the walls were being threatened, I tried to show them how Nehemiah motivated the people to be strong for
the sake of the Lord and their family. “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (Neh. 4:14).

I was prepared to discuss how we lead and serve for God’s glory and the good of the people. After we had discussed this verse for a while, one young man, Amged,* raised his hand. He asked if, based on this verse, it was OK for him to seek revenge and “fight”
the people who had killed his sister. Was he understanding the verse correctly?

The Expert's Struggle

This question wasn’t on my agenda. I hesitated to answer. As I did, he explained that his sister had been taken and killed by ISIS. I tried to understand the deep struggle Amged felt. It was most certainly outside of my personal experience. In his new faith, he knew that he was supposed to forgive. Yet here was a story, a verse that mirrored his context.

I was the “expert” in the Bible and I positively highlighted Nehemiah’s response as a leader. When I read the story, I see Nehemiah’s motivation for leadership. Amged sees something different. He wonders how Nehemiah’s call to fight for your family related to the loss of his sister. Our different cultures and life experiences generate different questions. Despite our differences, we share a commitment that the Bible has answers to life’s questions, whatever they may be. This is the struggle and joy of missions. It is trying to understand people’s culture and struggles and show how the Scriptures and the person of Jesus relate to them. Although everyone in this group is less than a year old in the Lord, their hunger and insightful questions are a beautiful picture of God’s work in building His Church as He promised.

This group, and others like it, need discipleship, teaching. They need a pastor to shepherd them. The harvest is indeed plentiful. We are praying to start a team in the region to join what God is doing and walk alongside and learn with our brothers and sisters. We’d love you to join us! Contact us at [email protected].

*Names have been changed for security reasons. 

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