So it is 2017 and much to my disappointment cars are still not flying, robots like Rosie from 33The Jetsons aren’t cleaning my house and teleportation still requires taking my shoes off at airport security.
While most of the information that we choose to access and share comes from shaky sources with specific agendas, there’s still some information that we stumble across that meets us right at the core of who we are. For example:
A new study out of The Center for Studies on New Religions in Italy has revealed that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world.
Further, The Center for Studies on New Religions said more than 90,000 Christians were killed in 2016. Out of 195 countries in the world 26 percent of them have made Christianity illegal and largely punishable by death.
Much like everyone else who reads or hears these statistics, I either scroll past the information or feel so overwhelmed by the number that I figure there’s nothing I can do. Which begs the question: How do we do respond when we learn about the persecution of our brothers and sisters in different countries? How do we live with global awareness regarding our faith and not just within the narrow mind of our own false realities and freedoms? Here are a few things to consider:
Do we take full advantage of our freedom?
It is possible for people to know where you stand with your faith and not be abrasive, suffocating or off-putting. You can love people through how you live simply because they were created to be loved even if they don’t believe in the same Creator as you do. If you don’t have this point down yet, the Gospel is a good place to start.
Part of taking advantage of the religious freedom I have in this country is not being afraid to let people know where I stand, who I follow and what I know Jesus did for me. It is being transparent about my failures and shortcomings because I don’t have to be perfect while also striving to conform to Christ’s character in my day-to-day life. It is about the small things: praying for my food (even in public), giving credit to God regarding my talents, abilities and blessings.
It is about the big things: Inviting people to church but loving them just the same if they say “no,” actually making it a priority to participate and serve in the ministries of the church, financially investing in the mission of the local church and yielding to God’s direction of my life over my own ideas of how this life should go.
How can you take advantage of the moments, opportunities and talents provided for you?
Pray for those who are not able to enjoy such freedom.
In the book of Acts, we see the widespread effects of persecution that still exists for Christians across the world. Yet miraculously enough, the persecution experienced by the early Church caused the Church to spread in popularity across the Middle East and the Roman Empire.
Within the book of Acts, specifically chapter 12, we get to see how King Herod Agrippa began to persecute leaders in the Church. The text goes on to tell us more about the king’s actions beginning in verse 2:
He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. (Acts 12:2-4)
Several men were imprisoned and murdered for their beliefs, but we see those who have at this point evaded such persecution praying earnestly for them. We see in Acts 12:5 that the Church was lifting Peter up in support while he was still in chains. Shortly after, an angel appeared and released Peter from captivity.
Many of us would agree that God is still involved in the miraculous but are we still involved in enough prayer to bring the miraculous to happen?
What if I told you that your prayers could still change the outcome of dire situations for those you have never met and bring about results you may never hear about? Would you then pray for those whose religious beliefs about Jesus are causing them persecution? Recommit to remembering those without religious freedom in your prayers.
Give financially to organizations that emphasize global evangelism.
It is truly remarkable how far the minor excess we sacrifice can help others reach the very basics like a Bible in hand or an opportunity at breaking free from oppression. I have heard remarkable stories about how families have sacrificed eating out once a month and used that money to change the stories and lives of those overseas. Is this the year you take the same step?
A few of the organizations that I have had personal contact with and can heavily vouch for their work are:
Pioneer Bible Translators: Pioneer Bible Translators exists to bridge the gap between the Church and the Bibleless peoples around the world.
Remember The Children: Remember the Children exists to bring faith, hope and love to Romania’s forgotten ones.
Central India Christian Mission: CICM responds to the needs of people in India and surrounding countries through outreach initiatives including providing medical care, disaster relief, shelter, food, education, training, and more. CICM who has led 400,000 people to Christ since the mid 1980s.
Regardless of what you choose to do, the new year is an opportunity shift perspectives, bless others and create history just as the church of Acts 1 did. You have the incredible opportunity to take advantage of resources and freedoms others will not experience in this lifetime. Let’s respond like the Church should.