Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Rest of the Body of Christ



I assume that if you're reading this, that you have Internet access. Not just that, but I'm sure that you live in an area where practicing your faith is legal and tolerated, if not embraced. You probably meet with other believers in a church building, typically known as "going to church." You no doubt have access to a Bible and, in the US, you have access to Bibles in many different translations and for virtually any stage of life. In the West, we have access to numerous Christ-centered resources, including books, schools, congregations, and nonprofits. We affiliate with different denominations that go under the umbrella of Christian. In other words, in the West, with our legalized and registered congregations, we have what is typically called "organized Christianity" or, in Lutheran terms, the "visible Church"vs. the "invisible church." I wonder if you have ever wondered, What would it be like if we were like the first Christians in the Book of Acts, where they didn't register with any government, but met in house churches and faced persecution? And thrived in spite of it?

Global Persecution of Brothers and Sisters in Christ Today

Most of us Western Christians know that many Christians don't share our freedoms. We treasure our religious freedoms. We thank God for them and are happy that we are not suffering severe religious persecution. Severe religious persecution is defined as experiencing government oppression, which makes the practice of one's faith dangerous, resulting in heavy fines, imprisonment, even the death penalty. Severe religious persecution is defined as hostility from terrorist groups who issue threats, attacks, even atrocities against one for practicing a minority faith. So many nations all over the world, as in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, are dominated by Islam. Islam is that state religion in many nations, and Christianity is illegal; practicing it is dangerous. In many countries, Christianity is tolerated but because of "hot spots" created by hostile terrorist groups, severe persecution can be experienced by those of minority faith. In such countries, radical Islamists terrorize people, especially Christians. IN spite of the Cold War, some Communist nations exist, like China and North Korea. Vietnam is a stronghold of Communism and Buddhism; hence a book of Vietnamese persecuted Christians is titled BETWEEN TWO TIGERS. In many of these countries, the Church not only is existing, but is growing! In fact, Christians are said to by multiplying fastest in Iran, where it is illegal to be a Christian. So does religious freedom carry a hidden price?

The Modern Book of Acts

In the West, institutionalized Christianity is the norm. Our local churches register with the government, and receive tax-exempt status. We often speak of "going to church" and have to work at bearing in mind that in God's eyes, we ARE the church. Enemies against our Christian faith are powerful and real, but we often have trouble pinpointing these enemies. These enemies include materialism, the pleasure principle, and secular humanism. These enemies have crept into many of our local congregations and make it a daily battle to practice our Christian faith. Many of the Scriptural principles go against the grain of our materialistic, humanistic, pleasure-mad culture. In the East, where so many hostile groups and hostile groups prevail now, our brothers and sisters in Christ have no trouble identifying their enemies. They are forced to come 100 percent for Christ or deny Him. They are often forced into positions of choosing between Christ and their families, between Christ and their freedoms, or even between Christ and their own lives. Countless Christians throughout this century and today, willingly choose Christ above their families, or their freedom, or their very lives. Many of them cannot practice their faith openly; they meet in underground house churches, like in the Book of Acts. They so often show the level of faith shown by those early believers. Two Christian wives and moms are high-profile examples of this. Currently, Meriam Ibrahim, a wife and mother in Sudan, is imprisoned and on death row with both her two children, because she would not deny her Christian faith; she has been in prison for several months. This has reportedly reached US government attention. In Pakistan, over five years ago, Asia Bibi, a wife and mom, was declared guilty of "blasphemy" and sentenced to death for defending her Christian faith. They are only two examples; there are so many, many other brothers and sisters in Jesus who remain true to Christ at great cost to themselves and their families. During this century, millions of Christians have died for their faith. According to the late Richard Wurmbrand, 400 Christians in Muslim countries, daily, are killed for their faith. Persecution is said to separate true Christians from mere professors. Jesus told us to count ourselves worthy if we suffer for Him, to expect persecution, and in Scripture, persecution seems to be seen as almost a "rite of passage" or a "necessary evil." Therefore, who is blessed and most importantly, who did Jesus say would be blessed?

Our Response

The New Testament Book of Hebrews tells us that we are to "Remember our brothers and sisters in chains, as though suffering with them." This means that we are to educate ourselves about the "other part of the Body of Christ," pray often for them, speak up on their behalf, and follow their examples of faith under fire. I have created a new Facebook group where all of you with Facebook accounts, can join and get updates on specific persecuted believers and information on restricted or hostile countries. My new group contains updates that redirect you to several nonprofits that are dedicated to coming alongside with, strengthening, and helping our brothers and sisters in Christ in restricted or hostile countries. These nonprofits seek to empower these believers to serve Christ, and seek to win the persecutors of believers to Christ. I post prayer requests that empower you to pray and these Christians treasure our prayers for them.

If you have a Facebook account, will you join my Facebook group right here?

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