Would you dare to love ISIS? That’s the challenge that Michael Chang, a non-denominational graphic artist in Los Angeles, poses to Christians in a new video:
He heads a new group seeking to be a Christian voice in online media. (On Twitter: @teammightyla.) Chang talks about why he did what he did. — KJL
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Most people’s first thought when they hear about an ISIS beheading is not to “love ISIS.” Why would you devote a video to the concept?
Michael Chang: Precisely for that reason. The only thing ISIS has heard are words of vengeance and hate. And they deserve it. Their actions demand heavy justice. But there’s another message out there. The message of the cross proclaimed by the people of the cross. This message of forgiveness and love in the midst of our darkest sins has always been the heart-cry of Christians. However, the world isn’t very fond of Christ and his people, so our voices get silenced or twisted.
Lopez: Can a man really be forgiven for beheading another?
Chang: What’s worse? Beheading someone, or nailing the Son of God to a cross? And yet, Jesus, while He hung there, said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not what they do.” The forgiveness of sins is not determined by the degree of the sin but by the value and worth of Christ.
Lopez: Who are “the People of the Cross?”
Chang: Christians. Christ-followers.
Lopez: What’s so powerful about the cross?
Chang: God and man were separated because of sin. The cross brings these two back together. It’s the beginning of a different kind of relationship between mankind and their Creator. That’s the super-short version. Tweet me for the full.
Lopez: At one point your video displays: “The People of the Cross come to die at your gates . . . If you won’t hear our message with words, then we will show you with our lives, laid down.” Why would anyone do that? Why is faith that important?
Chang: There are thousands of missionaries serving in dangerous parts of the world. They are willing to lay down their lives because they’ve found something more valuable. Contrary to Islam, where salvation is never guaranteed, Christ offers eternal life to those who believe in Him and profess Him to be Lord. This is the Gospel, which means “good news.” They want to bring that good news to those who have never heard. And if they won’t listen with words, we will show them with our lives, laid down for them. Charles Spurgeon once wrote this: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped around their knees. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no one go unwarned or unprayed for.”
Lopez: Could you really do that?
Chang: I hope that, if a time like that ever comes, I will be able to.
Lopez: Do you worry that by declaring yourself so associated with the cross you are asking for trouble?
Chang: Simply declaring that you are a Christian, especially in the U.S., means nothing. It’s when your faith causes you to act and speak in a way that is in alignment with the Bible – that’s when the world begins to hate you. And yeah, a lot of my future videos will do just that. Jesus says plainly that if the world hated him, they will hate his followers too. I’m not ashamed to be associated with the cross. And I’m not afraid of what people will say about me. I am called to share the “great and mighty” things of the Lord to this world, no matter the cost.
Lopez: Now, by emphasizing love, are you saying that armies should stand down and let Christians die?
Chang: Not at all. God values life, and governments were created to keep their people safe. Sometimes in order to save life, you have to defend it by waging war. The video wasn’t trying to make a political statement but just offers a plea to ISIS to come and hear the message of the cross.
Lopez: The martyrs give their lives, but do Christians in the West live Christian lives? Are we practically atheists at times? Do people see the Christian difference?
Chang: Yes, there’s definitely a sense in the Western church that we’ve really fallen short of what it means to be Christ-followers. We see what God is doing in other parts of the world and we’re left wondering why and how we’ve lost that first love. Nonetheless, God is still working here. There is a deep hunger and a longing spreading across this land for us to return to our roots. In every city 24/7 houses of prayer are being raised. Social-justice movements are defending the weak, media are being taken back for God’s glory, mission organizations are mobilizing, and revival is stirring. There’s a kind of persecution in the Middle East, but there’s another kind of persecution here in the U.S. It might not be physical, but it’s verbal and emotional. Where there is persecution, the church always flourishes. Revival is coming, and it will not delay.
Lopez: How did this particular video come together? Because you love ISIS so much? Or you wanted to make a statement about human dignity? Because you wanted to issue a challenge?
Chang: Well, the vision for Mighty [Chang’s media company] is that Christians would have a strong and consistent voice in online media. Because ISIS was so relevant, it made sense to speak on it. Prior to our video, ISIS released a video titled “A Message Signed by Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” They beheaded 21 of our people and issued a warning to all Christians.
Someone had to respond, so I took that opportunity. Do I love ISIS? No, not at first. But as I was working on the script, my heart broke for them. God always teaches me a lesson before there is a breakthrough. I remember one morning I was so depressed because I had committed a certain sin. (Christians aren’t perfect, so don’t expect us to be!) I wanted to quit and felt so unworthy to be making this video. But I got a message from a friend at the perfect timing. It just read, “Hey Mike, God loves you.”
Those simple words brought healing to my flesh. And it clicked. ISIS continues to murder people because they’ve never experienced a love like this. If I had committed such a sin and it drove me to despair, how much guilt must hang over the hearts of ISIS members, who behead people? They might never admit it, but I know the guilt and shame is there. Hurt people hurt people, and loved people love. I just broke down and prayed: Lord, I want them to experience this kind of love.
Lopez: What is Mighty LA? What’s the Christian voice you want to help represent and lead in online media?
Chang: Mighty is a media company based in Los Angeles. Our vision is that Christians would have a strong and consistent voice in online media. There’s a lot that God wants to say to this generation. My prayer is that God would use Mighty to do just that.
Lopez: Do you see anyone with such a voice now?
Chang: There are a lot of amazing groups out there using media to glorify God. But I wish there were more. I’m just humbled and thankful that I get to be one of the many voices that God is using.
Lopez: What’s so mighty? And how is it mighty, exactly?
Chang: Mighty is based on a verse in Jeremiah, 33:3: “I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.” Our logo, designed by my friend Leah Kim, is a constellation in the shape of an “M.” It’s not a logo of anything found on earth, but the stars in the logo point our gaze upward toward the heavens, reminding us and the world that the greatest and mightiest things to share are the truths, found in the Bible, that God has spoken over His creation.
Lopez: Who are you, what is your background, faith and otherwise?
Chang: I’m a motion-graphics artist based in Los Angeles. I’m non-denominational.
Lopez: What brought you to want to do something like this vocationally? What was the job you quit to do this? And when your website is up, what can we expect?
Chang: It’s actually been my life calling since I was in high school. I prayed a prayer that if God let me go into video-making, I would do it for His glory. A lot of crazy things happened in eight years, and finally I mustered up the faith to step out of my comfort zone, leave my full-time job as a promo editor at CJ Entertainment, and start Mighty. A temporary website should be up within one or two days. The main site won’t be up until the end of summer.
Lopez: How big is your team?
Chang: I’m the only one who’s working on this, part-time. I can’t do full-time because I still have to support myself through freelance gigs. I also have an incredible team of people from my church who have stuck with me and helped out with anything that they can. One of them helped me co-write this video, and many others helped shape the direction of this video. I wouldn’t be here without them.
Lopez: What’s your daily faith life like?
Chang: Well, we always have two desires fighting back and forth: the desire to live for God, and the desire to live for ourselves. So it’s always going to be a struggle. But prayer and the Word are the things I will be holding onto desperately during this season.
Lopez: Is Christian persecution a theme you will be sticking with? What’s next?
Chang: Nope! I’ve got so many ideas — I just need the time to do them. Next one might be called “First Love,” based on a famous passage in the book of Revelation.
Lopez: Will you do a video highlighting some of the lives of modern-day martyrs?
Chang: Possibly in the future!