The weekend challenged my prayer life for my persecuted family. For much of my Christian life, I viewed this duty as a calling 'someone out there' had, but I was convicted about my responsibility towards the persecuted church. 1 Corinthians 12 reminded me that the church is not my local Christian family with whom I commune, but the global body of believers - we are all part of one family, one body, hence 'if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.'
The conviction did not stop there! I was led to question my ardour and faithfulness in my walk with God, and the apathy I found myself in, shamed me. I know I am not alone, Western Christianity itself has been stunted by this; we are too complacent, too apathetic, too comfortable, and as a result our churches are diluted by counterfeits! This is why I believe we need a bit of persecution.
Persecution renews our appreciation for Christian fellowship
One night during the weekend, we had an opportunity to meet in a field like the secret church. What started off with excited laughs, was soon taken over by fear and sympathy. We worshiped in silence, braved the chilly temperature to read God's Word and pray together. Our discomfort seemed insignificant to the potential torture our brothers and sisters faced for just meeting together. We feared rowdy guys and insects (well I did!), an unjustifiable fear compared to that of being caught, tortured or even killed for believing in Jesus Christ - yet, my persecuted family remains fearless!
According to various surveys published, although more than 50% of the British population claims to be Christian, less than 25% identify themselves as 'churchgoers'. Sad! Fellowship is a fundamental part of Christian life, needed to encourage, instruct and support us.
Hebrews 10:25 - Let us not neglect meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.
When those who can potentially die for meeting together are able to do so, how much more should we! Too tired? Too busy? Too bad! No excuses!
Persecution refines and waters the church
Like fire is to a metal, persecution is to the church. It purifies us by burning off the contaminants to make us glow brighter than we ever could. Persecution has the power to repel the counterfeits until we are left with one passionate body.
If you take time to read the touching accounts of persecuted Christians, you see that the presence of the Holy Spirit was often most tangible during the tough times. When we are persecuted or on fire for God, we depend on Him - we are teachable and shaped by the Spirit to walk like Jesus and see the Word through His eyes. You see, metals are heated to be moulded.
We take freedom for granted, seldom remembering the price many paid for it. This attitude has damaged the church. Christianity is increasingly a cultural thing 'we do', rather than a personal thing 'we are', thus unattractive. Hea Woo, the North Korean lady imprisoned for her belief in the Lord, managed to start a revival in one of North Korea's labour camps. How? Her radical (Note: not 'radicalism' or 'fundamentalism') faith that drove her to help her fellow prisoners despite her own physical pain. Heat causes metals to expand and glow, likewise persecution exposes our passionate love for our Saviour, so passionate that it is irresistible! This is the Christianity I long to see in Britain!
There is a lot we can learn from our persecuted family. Their passionate, fearless lives must challenge us, as well us move us to uphold them in prayer and action.
Matthew 5:10 - Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Persecution is not a recent problem, since the time of the apostles Christians have been tortured, murdered and ridiculed for their faith, but as Tertullian wrote, 'the blood of martyrs' has proved to be 'the seed of the church'. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine my right to express my belief in Jesus being stripped from me. Persecution is an injustice hence I will never wish for it; what I wish for however, is the rebirth of a radical Christianity in the West - full of passionate belief, pursuing holiness and putting faith and love in action. If that is what we looked like, who would want to look away?