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Those seeking comfort in these trying days of racial tensions may find hope in the last book of the New Testament:

“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7)

Like watching a foreign film with subtitles one has to work a little harder to get the meaning of Revelation. Without the subtitles to explain the symbolism, which was known by those who read it in the first century, it means little to us today — and lends itself to all kinds of bizarre and inaccurate interpretations.

John’s book of Revelation was read in worship on Sunday mornings in churches around 100 AD. It was intended to be a word of comfort and hope for those who first heard it. This was a time when Christians were being persecuted for their faith. In some places they were forced to choose between worshiping Christ or the Roman emperor.

Revelation was written for people who were suffering at the time it was written. It was not intended to predict events in our own day. But it is a source of comfort and hope for those who are suffering in today’s world.

Those who remained faithful to Christ in the Roman Empire were often killed, tortured, or imprisoned, as followers of Jesus are today in some parts of the world. These are those who have come through the most horrific circumstances that a human soul can endure. It is brokenness and trauma that brings with it a lifetime of tears.

The challenge for all of us who are victims of this kind of brokenness, sin, and evil is to remain faithful to Christ. To be faithful to Christ is to do what he did when he was on the cross. This is where the going gets tough. This is what you will not hear on CNN or Fox News — or nearly anywhere else in the world.

Philip Yancey tells this story in his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”

In Northern Ireland in 1987 an IRA bomb went off in a small town west of Belfast, amid a group of Protestants who had gathered to honor the war dead on Veterans Day. Eleven people died and sixty-three others were wounded. What made this act of terrorism stand out from so many others was the response of one of the wounded, Gordon Wilson, a devout Methodist… The bomb buried Wilson and his twenty-year old daughter under five feet of concrete and brick. ‘daddy, I love you very much,’ were the last word Marie spoke, grasping her father’s hand as they waited for the rescuers. She suffered severe spinal and brain injuries, and died a few hours later…A newspaper later proclaimed, ‘No one remembers what the politicians had to say at that time. No one who heard Gordon Wilson will ever forget what he confessed… Speaking from his hospital bed, Wilson said, ‘I have lost my daughter, but I bear no grudge. Bitter talk is not going to bring Marie Wilson back to life. I shall pray tonight and every night, that God forgive them.’ ”

John Sumwalt is a retired pastor and the author of “Shining Moments: Visions of the Holy in Ordinary Lives.” He can be reached at johnsumwalt@gmail.com.

Capital Newspapers Weeklies Lead

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