HURTING WITH THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING FOR THE FAITH
As early Christians began to face increasing persecution, the apostle Peter wrote (in 1 Peter 4:12-13), “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.”
When American Christians read such a passage, we sometimes think about such things as court rulings against displaying the manger scene on public property or employers telling workers to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” I don’t want to take lightly the growing disdain in our country for the Christian faith, but I especially want to address seriously the grave dangers Christians face in many countries around the world today.
The World Evangelical Alliance estimates that over 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. The Christian missionary organization Open Doors, claims that 100 million Christians face more severe persecution. In some nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share one’s faith in Christ, to convert to Christianity, or to teach your own child about Jesus. Persecution against Christians has been known to involve beatings, physical torture, confinement, discrimination in education and employment, isolation, rape, imprisonment, slavery, and even death.
An article by Martin Shapiro in The Huffington Post on June 9, 2015 about persecution of Christians around the world today concludes with this challenge: “Shame on the Christian world for turning its back on their brothers!”
If we are to stop turning our backs on brothers and sisters who are facing persecution, what will that mean for us? When our backs are no longer turned, what will we find ourselves doing that is different than what we have done up to this point?
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul describes Christians as a body. In verses 14, 21 & 26 he writes, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many…. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’… If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
When we stop turning our backs on brothers and sisters who are facing persecution around the world today we will find ourselves hurting with them, and we will find ourselves praying for them, and perhaps we will find ourselves responding to a nudge from God to do something more to advocate on their behalf or to stand with them in their suffering. At our church this Sunday we will write letters to some fellow-believers who have been imprisoned because of their faith.