What Remembering the Persecuted Church Looks Like
- Thursday, October 08, 2009
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering - Hebrews 13:3
How relevant is the persecuted church to your everyday life?
I keep a daily pulse on religious freedom issues, and channel my findings into Crosswalk.com's Religion Today newsletters. But for all of that awareness, I've realized that I don't really do that much for my fellow believers worldwide. Not on a personal level, anyway.
Safe in the U.S., the persecuted church often exists more as an object lesson in perseverance than as individuals I can relate to. These men and women in North Korea, Egypt, Somalia, Uzbekistan, China, and beyond are so far removed from me physically that I forget the unity we share as believers. And after all, the most I can do is support ministries that directly help these Christians, right?
Lately, I've questioned this attitude not just for its impersonal nature, but for its faith implications. If faith is hoping and praying for things unseen, then why don't we apply this to our relationship with believers on the other side of the world? It takes a bigger faith than I've had to consistently pray for that something and someone I'll probably never see, never know by name.
Consider James 5:16, where the early church father wrote that "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." That's not efficacy as we think of culturally, with measurable results and visible signs. James's vision extends so far beyond that, into an eternity where all of God's children from around the world will worship around the same throne. Do we believe that God uses our prayers to support our brothers and sisters today, on this side of heaven, as well?
Researchers guess that about 176,000 Christians worldwide may have been killed for their faith between mid-2008 and mid-2009. Many of those believers died in secrecy, as in the North Korean prison camps, and were cut off from other believers at the end. Now, consider that we have a daily opportunity to partner with these men and women in prayer. I have to think that's what the author of Hebrews really meant when he encouraged us to "remember" imprisoned believers.
I'll be the first to admit it: I'm guilty of not remembering my brothers and sisters in Christ. My unfaithfulness to them reflects a heart that hasn't quite grasped the enormity of the power of prayer. And yet there James is, telling me that the Christian's prayers have more impact than perhaps we'll ever know. So - how about it?
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is November 8. What if we all pick a country and pray for the believers living there in the coming month? I'll be praying for North Korea, and believe me, there are plenty of places to go around. Let's remember that we serve a God who delights to use our prayers in ways we can't even imagine. Let's remember the persecuted church.
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