Some days, I feel like I’m lodged between two parallel universes.
On the one hand, I’m exposed to a warped North American version (in some quarters) of Christianity: God is a sugar daddy who is blessing us, gracing us, covering us, anointing us… endlessly. The expectation is that we will prosper, enjoy good health, and lack no good thing, because that’s what the Word promises us. We do not just survive; we thrive, in Jesus’ name.
Then I learn about persecuted Christians halfway across the globe, many of whom are in daily danger of losing their jobs, homes, family, church, and often their lives. There is no prosperity gospel, no praise team and worship shows service, no books and CDs of sermons for sale, no mega churches. In fact, the cause of their persecution is the church.
Here’s a snapshot of 21st-century persecution of Christians:
- Murder, beatings, torture;
- Forced marriages (for females), conversions to other religions, or denunciations of Christianity;
- Destruction or confiscation of personal property;
- Trumped-up charges of blasphemy, most recently against women and children;
- Deadly attacks on worshipers inside churches;
- Destruction or demolition of church buildings;
- Arbitrary arrests and indefinite imprisonment;
- No recourse to the legal system or government authorities.
Persecution today is not limited to the Middle East, Far East, and Asia, although recent events in Nigeria, Egypt, and India, among many other countries, leave a lot to be desired. Persecution is right at our front door in these United States, although less publicized. For now.
Why doesn’t much of the Western church seem to care? Why should I care?
I first learned about the plight of persecuted Christians more than a dozen years ago and have never been able to shake my desire to pray for, give to, and advocate on behalf of them. It has become, to quote the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, a “fire shut up in my bones.”
In his book “Wrecked,” Jeff Goins describes what that connection does to us: “When you expose yourself to deep need and pain, it feels anything but good. Compassion is messy. It hurts.”
I think part of the problem is that many of us Western Christians don’t really want to hurt … too much. For some, our spiritual worldview preempts going beyond Sunday morning superficiality and reaching across the apparent great divide between persecuted and nonpersecuted believers.
This Sunday, November 11, is the 2012 International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church. Can I encourage you to do four things regarding the persecuted church, just so we don’t end up merely observing the day and forgetting the persecuted for other 364 days?
- Learn more about what’s happening to the persecuted church. A simple Google search will lead you to many great sources of information.
- Pray consistently for our persecuted brothers and sisters. When asked about their greatest need, persecuted Christians ask, first and foremost, for prayer. Let’s not disappoint them.
- Come alongside ministries that cater to the persecuted church. Many organizations exist to shed light on the plight of the persecuted and to stir us to action.
- Encourage your church to talk about and support the persecuted church.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 10