Suffering: Persecution of God's Church

This week I live-streamed a prayer service taking place in a different part of the city. Two days ago I posted a verse on Facebook that left an impression on me. Right now I am considering YouTubing one of my favorite Christian rappers. As the thought of Andy Mineo’s “Know that’s Right” fades out of my mental forefront, a much bleaker image fills it – the image of the persecuted church.

Many believers around the world have no conception of even a tenth of the religious freedom and privileges American Christians enjoy. This degree of freedom is in part evidenced in the options we have to post, download, stream and share our faith. Though in American high school classes and on college campuses students may feel out of touch or uncool if we openly discuss our Christian views, persecution takes a far more aggressive and intolerable stance around the world. For example, Christians face great physical threat in countries such as North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and Syria (see the complete list at www.opendoorusa.org/christianpersecution/world-watch-list/).

In these countries, Christians may face:

• Denied access to the Bible

• Not permitted to assemble in groups

• Unfair treatment in school

• Family rejection

• Physical abuse, torture, and rape

• Kidnapping and forced conversion to other religions

In the face of overt persecution and heinous acts of violence, people of all ages are standing up, speaking out and in some cases losing their lives. You may have heard of Kyla Mueller’s story. While only in her twenties, she was a human rights activist and was kidnapped, tortured and raped by ISIS in August 2013. Her story was recently presented in a 20/20 special “The Girl Left Behind.” She sacrificially forewent the opportunity to escape abuse to allow other girls held in captivity to experience freedom.

Kyla epitomizes the reality that the high cost of being Christian may demand more of our brothers and sisters around the globe. Yet her life was not in vain. We have hope in this promise:

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. – Revelation 6:9

While we stand on such a promise, what else can we do to support other members of the body of Christ facing persecution?

• Pray relentlessly: For example, Sundays, November 6th and November 13th are the two International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church – mark them down, pray and tell others.

• Volunteer faithfully: Identify organizations committed to supporting the persecuted church. Voice of the Martyrs is one such organization but there are others that may be in your own backyard!

• Donate generously: You may not be able to go in person but your hard earned dollars can move faster than your feet – take advantage of this pace!

• Edify contagiously: Be willing to learn more about religious persecution and do not keep all of the new knowledge to yourself! The more you share the more interested others may become.

God may call you to the front lines to face extreme persecution near home or far away. Such service honors God immensely. Wherever and however you are called to honor God remember these trustworthy promises:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you." – Mathew 5:9-12

Our youth minister often closes sermons with this call, “...that the body of Christ be edified, that Christ be glorified, and that the enemy be horrified.” I pray this call would be evidenced in your activity to support and encourage our brothers and sisters facing persecution for the sake of Christ.

Amelia E. Thompson loves to see God create possibility out of what appears to be impossible. She became a Christian during her sophomore year in college. She and friends developed We Write Life into a platform for building community around issues of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness. Thanks to God’s guidance and kindness, she completed studies at Vassar College and St. John’s University and is completing a certificate in Youth and Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.