- June 7 – Bangladesh: Christian Pastor arrested and tortured (Persecution.com)
- June 16 – N. Korea: Public execution of woman arrested for distributing Bibles (Speroforum.com)
- July 23 – China: Public Service Bureau raids youth camp and arrests many (Persecution.com)
- August 1 – Pakistan: 8 Christians burned alive in a Moslem riot. (Persecution.com)
- August 11 – Iran: 2 women on trial for converting to Christianity from Islam after being in jail for 5 months without med care, thrown back into prison upon refusing to renounce their faith (christianpost.com)
While American Christianity continues to languish; while we sit on cushioned pews in air conditioned buildings and complain that the sermon was too long; while we deny those around us the opportunity to hear about our savior simply because it does not suit our comfort zone to talk to them…our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing the blessing of persecution and martyrdom.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:10)
Persecution and martyrdom is not a subject that often comes into the minds of modern American Christians. It is not a topic that we often discuss, or teach, or think relavent to us. Oh sure, we talk about being “persecuted” in our sense of the word, which usually means something along the lines of scoffing or mild ridicule we may (or may not) receive at the hands of people around us.
The fact of the matter is this: we have become too comfortable. American “Christianity” is largely not Christianity at all, as is apparent when we see what is the Biblical model of being a “little Christ”. The modern, popular, cultural sense of the word usually means something along the lines of:
- My parents go to church and took me as a kid.
- I go to church every now and again.
- I’m not really a bad person, and God loves everyone, right?
Even those who have a better idea of what Biblical Christianity is often have become lazy in their faith, not realizing the blessings they have; not committing heart, mind, soul, body, time, money, everything to the God that saves them.
Why? Because we are not challenged…by outside persecution, or by many vocational ministers.
I have long held the opinion that the American Church is in a dire situation of need, that can only be changed by massive, God-wrought revival, or outright, unilateral persecution. How many people would be in church on a Sunday morning if they knew that their neighbors might beat them to death if they found out where they had gone? How many would display a Jesus fish, or a cross if they knew that for doing so they might lose their jobs or be disowned by their families? I daresay that church enrollment would drop significantly.
But not only that, imagine the golden faith that would be produced in those who would joyfully continue!
All over the world, our brothers and sisters are being tested in just such ways. All over the world we see the examples of a deeper faith than many of us know.
In Philippians 2, Paul tells the church about Epaphroditus: that he is a faithful fellow worked and soldier who almost died while ministering to the Church with Paul. And Paul says:
So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ… (2:29-30a)
Let us honor our brothers and sisters who are dying and nearly dying for our faith! Let us praise our mutual Father for their faith and example! For they are, indeed, giving us an example of “little-Christ”-ness.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church…Colossians 1:24
Paul here is not saying that the work of Christ was in any way insufficient. As Piper says, what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is our ability to see them physically; to experience them. Thus, by his suffering for the glory of God, Paul is giving the church a clear picture of the suffering and afflictions of Christ, and so are our persecuted and martyred brothers and sisters around the world! They give us a beautiful, tangible picture of the sacrifice of Christ.
Therefore, while we pray for their deliverance; while we beg God to grant them mercy, we REJOICE that they are counted worthy to suffer for the Name that is above every other name! We extol the name of our savior, because their example points us towards what Christ suffered for us!
When will we begin to teach our sons and daughters, our children in the faith that martyrdom is a high calling, and one from which we should not shrink? When will we teach them that, if we live an outrageously Biblical style of Christianity, that it might be a possibility for even we air-conditioned, cushioned-pew Americans?
May we, as a culture, begin to realize the blessing of martyrdom and persecution. May we see those in the global Church who are counted worthy to portray this picture of Christ and praise God for them!
May we…dare I say it? Dare I pray it? May we pray that God would count us worthy to suffer, yes, even to die for the sake of His name.
God, blessed be Your name! I beg mercy for my brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering for you. Father, uphold them; sustain them; strengthen them; give them joy in the face of pain. Let them be as Paul and Silas who sing hymns while painfully chained in the dungeons of a prison. God strengthen their faith and keep their hearts steadfast. And Oh God, may we rejoice for them, that they are counted worthy to suffer for Your name! Father, may you count us as worthy.
…it is my eager expectation and hope that with full courage now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by my life or by my death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:20-21