The headline on CNN.com late Thursday morning jumped off the screen at me:
“70 Killed In University Terrorist Attack”
I continued to check back for updates throughout the day and the death toll climbed to 147. As I read through the initial story I saw, I came across the following paragraphs:
“Joel Ayora, who was on the campus and witnessed the attack, said gunmen burst into a Christian service. Taking hostages from the service, they then “proceeded to the hostels, shooting anybody they came across except their fellows, the Muslims.”
“The attackers separated students by religion, allowing Muslims to leave and keeping an unknown number of Christians hostage, Agence France-Presse reported”
I do not want to belittle this chilling atrocity. All those students at Garissa University College in Kenya did was get up and go to school and attended a Christian service, perhaps an Easter service celebrating the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And these Islamist militant gunmen burst in and killed 147.
I am almost certain that none of dead were thinking about being shot to death on Thursday. Many were simply doing what Christians all over the world are doing this week. Suddenly, their lives were snuffed out because of their faith and identification with Jesus.
This violent massacre reminds of something German theologian, pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book, The Cost of Discipleship:
“When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Bonhoeffer was writing about dying to self, selfish ambitions and self interests. But he just as easily could have been referring to physical death, which the cross represents. As the hymn says, “it is an emblem of suffering and shame.”
This is what Jesus said to those who were thinking about becoming His disciples:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? Luke 9:23-25 (ESV)
Disciples of Jesus understood (and understand) that following Him could result in death. The Apostle Paul certainly understood this. In his letter to the Philippians, he writes: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (1:21, ESV)
So, as we cry out against this Islamic violence and mourn the deaths of our Kenyan brothers and sisters, let us keep in mind the above verse.
I will leave you with the full context of the what was written by Bonhoeffer, who was arrested, imprisoned and eventually executed by hanging for his opposition to Hitler and the Nazis.
“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death – we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts.” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 99)