This is not what I thought the second post on my new site would be, but after recent events, I couldn’t write about anything else.
In the past three weeks, 85 Christian church-goers were killed in a church bombing in Pakistan; 250 African migrants, many of them Christians fleeing persecution, drowned when their ship caught fire and sank on their way to Europe; an imprisoned pastor marked one year in prison in Iran; and in Kenya, the Westgate Mall attackers who left at least 61 dead are said to have targeted Christians.
We are under fire. Not them. Us. We are being bombed, tortured, imprisoned, ostracized, forced to flee, killed. The distance that separates us means less than ever before, and yet we act like it makes us different. It really makes us indifferent.
We might say we care about our fellow believers who bear the weight of this persecution. But it doesn’t look like we do.
A few weeks ago, I ran into a gracious, lovely orthodox Jewish woman. I mean, I literally ran into her car with mine. It was my first accident and a long story, but everyone was unharmed and wonderfully kind to the dumb kid who didn’t sufficiently check her blind spot. While we were waiting on the police officer to fill out the paperwork, my friend and I prayed with this woman and talked with her for a few minutes about our respective faiths. God’s wild that way.
One thing she said shook me more than the accident itself. She said,
[custom_blockquote style=”green”]”What I don’t understand is how Christians are being killed and oppressed all over the world right now, and American Christians aren’t doing anything about it. If that were happening to Jews, we’d be doing everything we could to stop it… and there’s only 14 million of us in the world!” [/custom_blockquote]
All I could say was, “You’re right. It frustrates me, too.”
I feel sick just thinking about it. I wonder why we don’t do anything. Are our tears, prayers, and Facebook rants reserved for tragedies in American schools and not for Pakistani churches and North Korean prison camps?
We know we have a voice. Why are we collectively silent? I think there are a few lies we’re believing that are keeping us from truly being united for Christ across the globe.
Lie 1: We have our own problems to worry about.
Sure, the Church in America faces its own Ninja Warrior obstacle course of issues. These challenges should be prayed about fiercely and attacked with wisdom and courage. But since when was that a good enough excuse for a follower of Christ? In Luke 9, Jesus tells the guys who want to tidy up their own lives before following him that the kingdom of God doesn’t work that way. We don’t come first.
Lie 2: They’re better than us; we can’t help them.
Deep down, we’re painfully aware of the nagging truth that they’re doing something right and we aren’t. Paul told us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Do we want to look into the eyes of someone dying for the cause we claim to be living for and say, “Hey, dude, I’m praying for you”? We hate feeling guilty, but we have to let conviction take the wheel and drive us where we need to be to be truly sold out for Christ. Sometimes that starts with the humility of setting our meager offerings down before someone who wrote the book on sacrifice.
Lie 3: Persecution means church growth and we don’t want to get in the way.
Yes, persecution often spurs exponential growth. And Paul says we should rejoice in suffering (Romans 5:3); in it we are following Christ’s example. I’ll dare to say we can always rejoice in the fact the gospel is spread, even if it’s through persecution (Paul did as much). But that doesn’t mean we let our brothers and sisters take a beating when we can do something about it. When Peter was thrown in prison, the early Jerusalem church didn’t say, “Go get ’em, Pete!” and then go back to their own lives. They earnestly prayed for him, and he was miraculously freed (Acts 12:1-19).
What if, instead of just praying for safe travels and job promotions, we added fervent, consistent prayers for specific missionaries working in countries hostile to Christianity? What if instead of building a new sanctuary, we added a service and gave the money to help train pastors whose seminary aspirations are about as likely as me attending Hogwarts? What if instead of buying a fourth study Bible, we sent Bibles to places where entire communities share one copy? Do you think we’d be stamping out revival then? Or do you think the Spirit of God would work through that global effort to do something truly world-changing? From what I know about God, I’d choose the latter.
Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” It’s just one of many verses that reminds us how intentionally we should apply loving our neighbors as ourselves to the Church. We are one in Christ.
Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned and tortured for preaching Christ in Romania during the reign of communism. He later founded Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) to bring help to the persecuted and awareness to the pampered. In his book Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand says one of the greatest encouragements to the Underground Church in Romania was just to know their fellow believers around the world knew of their plight and their cause and were standing with them. The persecuted Christians he knew weren’t asking for rescue as much as they were asking for prayer, support, and resources to keep pressing on. If we get involved, we won’t interfere, we’ll invigorate!
“Many Christians in the West have no love for those in captive nations. Proof of it is that they do nothing for their salvation.”
Beyond that, we do nothing even for own family in these nations. And that is what the world sees, even more than our lack of evangelism. Because “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Lie 4: We can’t make a difference.
Don’t give in. Here are tangible things we can do to show our love for our persecuted brothers and sisters:
- Pray. It’s the ultimate catalyst. VOM has updates to keep you informed on prayer needs. The World Watch List provides information on the countries most hostile to Christianity and how to pray for them.
- Learn and Share. Check out the websites of organizations like VOM and Open Doors, Read Tortured for Christ (VOM will send you a copy for free), Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, or the Jesus Freaks books. Stay up to date on the global church and let others know what’s happening. Don’t be silent!
- Give. You can give money, of course, but also words of encouragement when you write a letter to a prisoner. You can also give your name to a petition or your opinion to your government representatives.
It’s about time we started acting like family.