“I want to follow Jesus. I don’t understand everything but I get that my problem is that I’m a sinner and Jesus is my only solution. Can you help me?” Remember how excited you were getting this call from a guy at work? So you said, “Great!! Before we go further, are you willing to be tortured and die for Jesus?”
Silence. “Are you still there?”
Of course you didn’t. We don’t. We wouldn’t. Should we?
Bloodletting is so common throughout Christianity’s 2000 year history that maybe we should. Peter, Stephen, Polycarp, Perpetua and Felicity, Jan Huss, Hugh Latimer, William Tyndale, Jim Elliot, and Martin Burnham all died violently for the crime of following Jesus. Hmm, Jesus did say others would hate us because others hated Him whom we follow (John 15:18).
November 2, 2014 is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a day when Christians around the world join hearts to intercede for brothers and sisters. It’s a day when attentions are often drawn to sufferers in places like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Laos. This year ground zero is in the news almost daily. Typically we don’t find stories of Christians being persecuted on network TV or at top web outlets. The Islamic State advance has changed all of that. After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, some Iraqis took advantage of the instability to turn their fury on local Christians. Many believers fled the country, and many ended up in neighboring Syria. Then war swept into Syria in 2011. Again Christians became targets. In both countries, the absence of a strong central government left those who hate Christians unrestrained and the Church has paid a horrific price.
The fortunate ones loose their belongings and homes. Others are beheaded, crucified, and watch powerless as their daughters are kidnapped to be sex slaves for the fighters. What sounds like some horror flick is daily news. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq & Syria who are being systematically exterminated as a matter of public policy for the religious state raging out of Anbar Province.
And we should pray against our own sinful hate. Their persecutors are blind (2 Cor.4:4) and in great need of Jesus. Just like we once were.