Several months ago, I met an orthodox Jewish woman and we took the opportunity to discuss our respective faiths. One thing she said shook me and I haven’t been able to forget it:
“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.”
All I could say was, “You’re right. It frustrates me, too.”
Genocide is a heavy word to throw around. But that’s what many feared was facing minority religious groups in Iraq recently as terrorist group ISIS swept through regions that have been occupied by Christians for 1,800 years.
Last month, many of the last Christians fled the area after ISIS gave them an ultimatum: convert, pay or die.
Sadly, this is not the only place in the world where Christians are facing intense persecution. Recently, as part of a crackdown of religious minorities in Saudi Arabia, dozens of Saudi Christians were arrested during a prayer meeting. In the past year, we have heard of people imprisoned and sentenced to death in Sudan and Iran, churches bombed in Pakistan, and the thousands held in labor camps in North Korea. All because of their faith in Christ.
We are under fire. Not them. Us, the global Body of Christ. We are being bombed, tortured, imprisoned, ostracized, forced to flee, killed. We know we have a voice. Why are we simply shaking our heads and remaining silent? I think there are a few lies we’re believing that are keeping us from being united for Christ across the globe.
1. We Have Our Own Problems to Worry About.
Sure, the Church in America faces its own obstacle course of issues. These challenges should be prayed about fiercely and attacked with wisdom and courage. But since when is that a good excuse?
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—as individuals or one particular nation—don’t come first.
2. They’re Better Than Us; We Can’t Help Them.
It’s awkward that they’re suffering and we aren’t. Paul told us “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 take up our cross for Christ. Sometimes that starts with the humility of setting our meager offerings down before someone who wrote the book on sacrifice.
3. Persecution Means Church Growth and We Don’t Want to Get in the Way.
Yes, persecution often spurs exponential growth. Paul even says we should rejoice in suffering (Romans 5:3); in it we are following Christ’s example. 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 we prayed fervent, consistent prayers for specific missionaries working in countries hostile to Christianity? What if gave money to help train pastors whose seminary aspirations are about as likely as me attending Hogwarts? What if we sent Bibles to places where entire communities share one copy? Would we be stamping out revival then? Or might the Spirit of God work through that global effort to do something truly world-changing?
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.”
We are one in Christ. Jesus told His followers, “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
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 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.
4. We Can’t Really Make a Difference.
Here are just a few 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.