The Beheading of the Church: the Jesus CrISIS
If there is one word that has unexpectedly been added to our everyday vocabulary in recent times, it is the word “beheading.” The word sends shudders to my core. The thought of the act of beheading is so graphic and inhumane that it nauseates me.
In the Collins dictionary, the definition of “behead” means to “remove the head from.”
This barbaric form of execution is nothing new. Throughout history beheadings have been deemed an honourable and less painful way to die. This form of capital punishment was common among the ancient Greeks and Romans, and embedded in the cultural traditions and histories of peoples all around the world. Such decapitation also became a ritual in Japan from 15th-19th centuries. New Zealand has its own stories involving decapitation. I was ten and living in Otara, when a shocked community mourned and struggled to comprehend the attempted beheading of a young Tongan man by a group of Samoans in 1988. Fear and disbelief permeated the streets of Otara following that day. Unfortunately, for beautiful Otara and her people, the incident would echo in generations ahead and threaten to define the once close-knit community. It is great to see that Otara have stood courageous since then. A well-known beheading is recorded in the Bible. Herod’s step-daughter took her mother’s advice (Herodias) and demanded that John the Baptist’s head be presented to her on a platter. Herod promised his step-daughter she could have anything for her birthday. John had disapproved of Herod and Herodias’ relationship (Herodias was Herod’s brother’s former wife). John was beheaded and presented to Herod’s step-daughter, Salome.
This word, beheading, I thought, was slowly disappearing and left behind where it belonged in history. Recently, the world has witnessed the emergence of an extremist Islamic group known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). With its extremist views, this terrorist group has publicly performed beheadings to make a statement about who they are and what they represent. To date this group have executed close to 200 (reported) hostages by decapitation. This is horrific.
It can be quite overwhelming and discouraging when thinking of what “I” as a Christian or “We” as the church are supposed to do with this. As we grieve and perhaps deal with an element of fear we can get so caught up in thinking about ourselves. Our own safety and security. It’s not happening to me so I won’t get involved. That’s a Middle East issue. I’ll turn a blind eye and pretend nothing is happening.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, when we allow fear and insecurity and ignorance to creep into our living out of faith and hope, in the message of Jesus Christ, we fail to acknowledge, that we, the church, and as Christians have a Head. We can be easily distracted from the One who calls us to Himself. Are we distracted so much by the violence that we have decapitated ourselves? The apostle Paul reminds us that: “Christ is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life” (Colossians 1:18). “Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is himself the Saviour of the church, his body” (Ephesians 5:23).
When our faith is shaken and our grief forces a shift in focus we can easily forget that we, the church, have a Head. The truth is, we need the Head. Every body needs a head. We need Christ to talk us through what we can do: how we can pray, how we can speak, sing, and dance into situations where our fellow humans are being inhumanely treated. The body, the church, should remain as close and as attached as possible to the Head – Jesus Christ, who says, “Come to me… and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We continue to pray and hope for those facing persecution around the world.
Blessings and Peace
Rev. Gary Mauga
Rev. Gary Mauga
Thoughts and comments by our minister, Gary.
This page content © 2016
Rev. Gary Mauga