It was one of the most chilling scenes ever witnessed on live television. A 16-year-old boy standing in the middle of the street with his hands over his head saying he didn’t want to die.
The incident began around 4 P.M. at the Hawara Checkpoint, just outside the West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli soldiers had received word a suicide bomber was nearby. They secured the checkpoint and began to search hundreds of people in the area. Suddenly they saw a young boy approaching wearing an oversized red jersey. “We saw that he had something under his shirt,” said Lt. Tamir Milrad. Soldiers dove behind concrete barriers, drew their weapons and ordered Hussam Abdo to stop.
At their orders the teenage boy stopped and slowly removed the red jersey, revealing a large, gray bomb vest underneath. “He told us he didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to blow up,” Lt. Milrad said. Soldiers sent a robot carrying scissors so Abdo could cut the vest and remove it. He was visibly frightened and upset and struggled to get it off. “I don’t know how to get this off,” he said as he looked to the soldiers for help. Finally, he was able to completely remove it and bomb specialists were able to safely detonate it. The Israeli military said Abdo’s mission was primarily to kill soldiers. But, “he would have also harmed the Palestinians waiting at the checkpoint, and there were 200-300 innocent Palestinians there,” said the checkpoint commander.
Abdo’s mother said her son was obviously pressured to do this. The boy told an Israeli newspaper reporter that after years of bullying by classmates, who teased him because of his size, he wanted to reach the paradise that he had learned about in school. “A river of honey, a river of wine and 72 virgins. Since I have been studying Koran I know about the sweet life that waits there,” Abdo said. “But when the soldiers stopped me, I didn’t press the switch. I changed my mind. I didn’t want to die anymore,” he continued. “I’m sorry for what I did.”
Hussam Abdo’s father said his son had little to do with specific Palestinian factions but was immature and easily swayed. Apparently so are a lot of young Palestinian boys as a number of teenage boys have carried out suicide bombings in the past 3 1/2 years. Back in March Israeli soldiers stopped an 11-year-old boy allegedly trying to smuggle explosives through the same checkpoint. In February Israeli police arrested three boys, 12, 13 and 15 who were planning a shooting attack in the northern Israeli city of Afula.
An advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dore Gold, said, “Israelis do not understand how Palestinians are willing to sacrifice their children in order to kill ours.” At some point, Hussam Abdo was willing to die for a cause he thought he believed in. Thankfully, Israeli soldiers were able to stop him before he ended his life and ruined the lives of many others. Sadly, they are not always that successful. There are unknown numbers of suicide bombers all around the world, of all ages, and the effect they are having is incalculable. (Think September 11th.)
Obviously, their cause is corrupt but their commitment isn’t. Contrast that with the average evangelical church in America where we have the Consummate Cause in Jesus Christ. Yet for the most part, our commitment needs a lot of work. Can we be honest?
For example, why would the weather ever have anything to do with someone’s decision about whether or not they were going to worship on Sunday? Isn’t that a no-brainer we really don’t need to pray about or even think about? Why is it some folks have an apparent unending capacity to stand at a soccer field for two hours or more on Saturday but struggle to sit for a one-hour worship service on Sunday?
Some people have a rap sheet as long as your arm of former churches where they used to be members. What ever happened to the commitment they made when they joined church #1? The marriage commitment is supposed to be “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, ‘til death do us part.” But the commitment of way too many contemporary church members, when they join a church, is clearly not for long.
I don’t have the time or space to address the waffling and wavering commitment, or lack thereof, of far too many church members when it comes to personal spiritual growth, involvement in service and ministry, tithing and giving beyond the tithe, sharing their faith, having a heart for missions, etc.
I’m not suggesting we need to raise up an army of spiritual suicide bombers. I am suggesting the church of Jesus Christ could learn a lot from their commitment. If we could ever get that same kind of commitment among our ranks, you never know, some of them might even join us. If they’re willing to die for a dead cause, what would happen if they could live for a live One.
Let’s re-double our efforts to be an example to the world in our commitment to Christ and cause an effect heard around the world!
© 2014. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.