Monday, January 31, 2005

Irony of Ironies

"Sometimes irony can be so. . . ironic!" It was a line from a movie I saw. It stuck with me, maybe because I run into irony so often, or maybe because I remember stupid stuff. But it's stuck in my brain somewhere between the name of the winner of the 1911 Indianapolis 500 (Ray Harroun) and the lyrics of "The Night Chicago Died" (Trust me, you don't want to remember that song.)

Irony is everywhere. But the picture of irony came to me again last weekend as I read a blog from Iraq about some of the details of the elections there. Danger was the key word, but fearless determination apparently won the day as the Iraqi citizens turned out to vote. We probably won't know for a few weeks, but the turnout in dangerous Iraq may have actually been higher that the turnout in safe and apathetic America. The courage of the voters is only matched by those who worked to ensure the safety of the voters. While terror did not rule the day, there were those who made the sacrifice to keep the peace. One of those people was Police Constable Abd al Amir.

Baghdad Police HQ reported that at 1200 hrs today, Police Constable Abd al Amir was killed in the line of duty at the Khalil bin Walid Polling Center in the Yarmuk section of Baghdad. Abd al Amir identified a suspicious man wearing an explosives belt, and immediately tackled him, shielding the lines of voters with his body, and dying instantly when the terrorist detonated his belt.
I cannot convey my thanks to al Amir and his family personally, but I am incredibly grateful and awestruck by his sacrifice on behalf of his country and his countrymen and women. He is a real hero. I think his story is an amazing picture of a man putting others before himself, and in so doing, made the ultimate sacrifice -- dying so others could live.

So where does the irony come in? I'll explain. . . in a minute.

I get asked a lot of tough questions in my line of work. Some I can answer, others I can't. One of the most common is the whole idea about the exclusivity of Christianity. "Why do you believe that Christianity is the only way to God? What about other religions?" People think we are such a private club, not wanting anyone else in on "our" heaven. True, there are some who are so prejudiced that they think heaven is only for white, middle-class Americans, but those are the real nutjobs. Reading the Bible tells you that access to God is made possible through the Son. If you reject the Son, you reject the Father. And that is certainly harsh sounding at times, but it is an important part of the Gospel. Christ is not exclusive to any one group. Well, that's not exactly true. Christ is exclusive to those who accept Him. But anyone is free to become a part of that group.

So in order to get to the irony, I have to make an assumption. I am assuming that Mr. al Amir was a Moslem. I could be wrong, and I hope I'm wrong but from circumstantial evidence I would suppose I must be right. And if I'm right, then Mr. al Amir is not in heaven right now. No person is saved by the good things he does. According to the words of Jesus, "No man comes to the Father but by me," if you reject Jesus, as a true follower of Islam would do, then despite his courageous sacrifice the Constable died in his sins.

I can already see part of the gallery picking up fruits and vegetables to throw at me. Believe me, I wouldn't say such things if Jesus didn't say it first. But His words are pretty clear.

I've heard many equivocate on this statement, saying that God would never send a good person to hell. Those who try this argument forget that God doesn't sentence anyone to hell without their agreement. A person agrees to eternal punishment by refusing Jesus Christ as Savior. Toss out Christ, toss out heaven as well.

Others tell me that they believe that God will save those who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. And while I could go into a whole four-page counterargument about those people in far away places, I'll just point out that I'll leave judgments up to the only qualified Judge. And I'll just mention that if a person could be saved by never hearing Jesus' name, then we're wasting a lot of money on missionaries and outreaches. If people were saved without hearing about Jesus, we should spend the money to make sure that all books are burned and all means of communication with the outside world are destroyed. Wouldn't that be the most effective means to bring people into the Kingdom?

So, is that the irony?

No. It is a bit ironic. But the irony of ironies takes us back to the story of Police Constable Abd al Amir. Mr. al Amir gave his life sacrificially for others so that they could live. But if he was not a Christian then Mr. al Amir rejected the One who gave His life sacrificially so that he could live -- eternally.

Ironic. And sad.

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