“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[Matthew 5:11-12]
As covert forms of persecution and intolerance against Christians continues to grow in the West, the church in more restricted nations is experiencing some of the worst overt forms of persecution in recent memory. Recent attacks in China, Nigeria, Syria, and Indonesia and many other nations have become commonplace.
Strangely, as our corrupt culture just finished spending an entire month celebrating gay pride including every form of sexual deviancy and perversion, the mainstream media has remained deafly silent when it comes to the relentless injustice and oppression of Christians all over the world.
I would expect as much from the biased, godless media, but my heart breaks to see how the church in the West is either ignorant or worse indifferent toward the systematic persecution of Christians in other nations.
Social media and 24-hour news access provides up-to-date information about these atrocities, so that the evil is at least being exposed. But the question remains.
What can we do about it?
IDENTIFY WITH THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
“Resist him (the devil), firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world.”[1 Peter 5:9]
Our first response must be to identify with the universal church and reaffirm that we are one body, united by Christ, and therefore brothers and sisters of the faith, adopted into family by our Heavenly Father.
How would we respond if our wives or children or siblings were being brutally murdered or unjustly imprisoned against their will?
In many ways, our family of faith is more closely related than our biological families because we are united by the Holy Spirit and have been redeemed by Christ for the same destiny — eternity with God.
Jesus affirms this unique relationship that the church has been given.
“But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”[Matthew 12:48-50]
Every single believer in this world has been spiritually united in Christ and therefore is part of God’s family, brothers and sisters forever. When we begin to see the persecuted church as our own family and begin personally to identify with them, it will change our attitude and actions altogether.
SHARE IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST
The Bible commands us to “weep with those who weep” [Romans 12:15], and also to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” [Galatians 6:2]
As followers of Jesus, we are called to share in the sufferings of Jesus Christ and endure persecution for the sake of Christ, knowing that God uses such trials to teach us dependence upon the LORD and to transform us into the image and likeness of Christ.
When we identify with our brothers and sisters who are suffering and learn to weep with them and remember them, we are bearing their burdens and sharing in their sufferings for the sake of Christ and His gospel.
BE INFORMED — NOT IGNORANT
There is no excuse for us to remain ignorant in today’s Information Age. There are many trusted ministries that keep track of the most heavily persecuted regions of the world and give updates and offer prayer requests for our brothers and sisters in need.
Two exceptional ministries are …
Being informed is the first step in identifying with the family of God in peril around the world and beginning to partner with them. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 …
That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”[1 Corinthians 12:25-26]
OFFER RELIEF AND CONSIDER POLITICAL ACTIVISM
There are many different reputable ministries that provide direct relief to Christians in distress. Many of these focus on war-torn nations that have a refugee crisis. Others offer relief and even legal advocacy for Christians in oppressed nations.
One may also consider how to engage our state and federal politicians to use their influence to bring attention to the most extreme cases of persecution against our brothers and sisters. There are literally countless ways to become engaged on the front lines of this battle.
PRAYER IS THE GREATEST ACT OF LOVE
The Apostle Paul coveted the prayers of the saints while he was suffering all kinds of persecution throughout his ministry. He says in Colossians 4:3, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.”
Our greatest weapons against such evil … Prayer.
And in Ephesians 6, Paul reminds the church that our battle is not against our fellow man, but against the evil forces and powers at work behind every kind of evil we face.
“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”[Ephesians 6:18]
We may be sitting rather comfortably in the West for now, but our time of persecution is coming quicker than we may think. The least we can do right now is remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for the NAME and engage in the spiritual battle on their behalf.