What does it mean to be an I Am N Christian in the Middle East right now? How should their stories inspire us as Western Christians? I have had the privilege of meeting and hearing the incredible stories of some of these sisters and brothers during recent visits to Iraq and neighboring countries where The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is serving them in their time of great need. There are six themes that emerge from the testimonies of these Christians that every Christian can benefit from. These are themes that we have witnessed repeatedly in hundreds of interviews with persecuted Christians.
When Islamic State (ISIS) militants moved into northern Iraq, they began identifying Christian-owned homes and businesses. Families would find the Arabic letter “N” (ﻥ) painted on their buildings. This single letter, the first letter of the word used in the Quran to identify Christians, conveyed the powerful accusation that the occupants were followers of Jesus.
Our Christian brothers and sisters were tagged in this way and given the choice of either converting to Islam or standing for Christ and losing everything they owned. In the Iraqi city of Mosul (Nineveh, in the time of the Old Testament) more than 100,000 Christians were displaced, abducted or killed in less than one week. That happened more than a year ago, and none of the displaced believers have been able to return to their homes.
I have seen firsthand the way these followers of Jesus live out their faith. When we wrote the book I Am N, we organized it around six themes that capture the essence of their faith and inspire us to stand strong for Christ no matter where we live. God is faithful. He has not abandoned them, and neither should we.
What does it mean to say I Am N?
Standing with our persecuted family members is one of the greatest privileges any Christian can have. Boldly saying I Am N is a commitment to place ourselves alongside our sisters and brothers and to say, “I am not willing to let them suffer in silence. I am not willing to let them serve alone.”
We are all part of the body of Christ. When one suffers, we all suffer. I appreciate the way that Ray Vanderlaan describes it. He asks us to imagine slamming our finger with a hammer while trying to hang a picture. We would never respond, “I’m not suffering, only my finger is suffering!” In the same way, we often view ourselves as detached from our suffering family members.
As we have traveled around the world meeting with our persecuted family members, we have seen six themes that mark their lives. These themes are universal, biblical themes that we must embrace in order to experience spiritual maturity
(Listen or watch as VOM’s Dr. Jason Peters discusses these themes with Dr. Ed Stetzer on The Exchange)
We will count the cost of discipleship and willingly pay the price because Christ is worth it.
The Apostle Paul directed Christians to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Jesus Christ is worth any sacrifice!
We will not become paralyzed by fear because God has empowered us to embrace risk.
Richard Wurmbrand said, “Jesus never feared or hated any man.” We are called to live courageously, confident that our God is ultimately in control. “Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24).
We will rejoice in the midst of our suffering in this world because of our eternal hope in Christ.
In Acts 20:24, we read, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Joy is one of the most surprising themes we witness when we sit with Christians who have been persecuted, but it is almost always present!
We will stand firm, resisting any opposition. By God’s strength, we endure and overcome.
Scripture reminds us that “tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3b–5).
We will allow the Holy Spirit to work supernaturally in our hearts as we obey Christ by loving our enemies and forgiving others as we have been forgiven.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (Luke 23:34a). Jesus demonstrated forgiveness — even as He died. Remarkably, by God’s grace, many martyrs supernaturally demonstrate forgiveness today — even as they or their loved ones die.
We will not allow adversity to cause us to be unfaithful to God’s Word or disobedient to His purposes.
In Revelation 2:10, we read, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The faithfulness of our sisters and brothers who are enduring incredible persecution right now is a model for us.
I Am N (David C. Cook, March 2016) will introduce you to inspirational Christians facing Islamic extremists. We can stand alongside these brothers and sisters, who remain joyful and blessed by their relationship with Christ despite having lost everything they own. The joy they have in Christ is something the extremists cannot take away from them. These Christians are our family members — part of the body of Christ. We will not let them suffer in silence. We will not let them serve alone.
Are you willing to say I Am N?
Dr. Jason Peters serves as Associate Vice President of Connection for The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). As a global voice for our persecuted family members, Dr. Peters travels frequently to meet face-to-face with persecuted believers around the world, leads VOM’s outreach initiatives, including media development, special events, public relations, and oversees hundreds of speakers and representatives. Peters was Executive Editor of I Am N: Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremism and Host/Producer of the I Am N video curriculum (David C Cook, March 2016). He has ministered in 40 countries, as diverse as Sudan, Cuba, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Jason and his wife Kimberly ministered overseas for several years, where two of their five children were born.