This month saw the release of Open Door’s 2015 World Watch List, its annual report on the state of Christian persecution worldwide. The press release on the Open Doors site reads in part:
While the year 2014 will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era, current conditions suggest the worst is yet to come….This year, the threshold was higher for a country to make the list, indicating that worldwide levels of persecution have increased.
First things first: I love the report. You can dispute the criteria or the measurement if you like (those debates can be healthy and helpful), but the need for good data–the need for any data–in this area is immense.
So my focus here is not on the report but rather on your reaction to it: Knowing that we are experiencing the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era, and that the worst is yet to come, how do you respond? By calling your legislator? By exposing the dangers of Muslim extremism? By engaging in imprecatory prayer?
How about by leaping for joy?
Mother Nina asked [Rev. Richard Wurmbrand] how to bear suffering. He said that he had always been afraid of suffering, but then he began to be joyful in suffering. “Be joyful!” he exclaimed, “leap for joy!” As Mother Nina remarked later, as he said this his eyes seemed like a sea of light opening into eternity.
“Only forgiven sins are committed against me,” Rev. Wurmbrand once wrote in reply to a letter from a former antagonist asking for his forgiveness. In the letter, he explained:
In Greek, the words in “Our Father” are “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgave (afekamen, the past tense) those who trespass against us”. I have forgiven on the day of my baptism all those who have offended me and those who will offend me until the end of my earthly life… In prison I got beatings which I had forgiven years before.
I do not pretend to know how Rev. Wurmbrand would respond to this latest World Watch report. But it would not be hard to imagine that rather than (or in addition to) words like publicize, protect, or prevent, he might talk about our natural fear of suffering, our need to leap for joy in it, and the vital importance of getting word to our persecutors that the only sins they can commit against us and our brothers and sisters around the world are forgiven ones.
So try not to look sad as you read the report. Remove the furrow from your brow. Wash your face and leap for joy in public. Jesus taught us this would happen, and, as Rev. Wurmbrand reminds us, Jesus taught us how he expects for us to respond when it does:
Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.