Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Little Persecution

10"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. -- Matthew 5:10-12 , NASB95

The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man. The Communist torturers often said, "There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish." -- Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured For Christ, p. 36.

Richard Wurmbrand's book, Tortured For Christ, is a record of the unspeakable torture he and others endured at the hands of Communists. It is not a pleasant read, but it is an important one. What Christians endure for their faith is not what one hears about in the media, and is seldom what is portrayed in books and movies.

Today, you are more likely to hear about the abuse of animals than you are to hear about the abuse suffered by people who believe in Jesus Christ. There is almost a sense that today's world has grown beyond the sharp persecution of years ago, but that would be to misunderstand the realities of our time in history.

American Christians, in particular, are sometimes isolated from the news about other believers in the world and what they must endure in order to be believers. We are much more comfortable with theological arguments, debates, and who is a notch up on the "I'm right and you're wrong" scale. Much of the rest of the world is just trying to avoid pain and death because they believe in Jesus.

Years ago, a friend of mine frequently prayed this: "Lord, send us some persecution!" I would say to him, "Jim, leave me out of that prayer!" He didn't really want to be persecuted, but he did believe that persecution would urge us to get our minds focused on the important and abandon the rest. I still don't want to be persecuted, but I haven't found the magic answer to getting us focused on the really important and away from things that just don't matter.

It's an interesting thing about this age in which we live. We seem to spend more of our time focused on things that keep us apart than on things that bring us together. Is it because we have the luxury of being able to do that? Could it happen because we aren't driven to one another by pain and death? Historically, it is said, that the church has always grown stronger under persecution. Some of that must occur because people are driven to what really matters. But the flip side of that must count as well. People are driven away from unimportant things.

I still don't think I want to be persecuted, but perhaps we need to be driven to the vitally important and away from junk. Which direction are you headed?