What emotions are stirred up within you when you read a story like that of Kollol which was recently published on the VOM Blog?
“Kollol” and his wife were attacked by 15 radical Hindus during a June 4 prayer meeting in their home. The couple were beaten and then dragged to a Hindu temple, where they were forced to undergo a ritual cleansing . . .
Maybe you feel a great deal of horror, mixed in with shock, sadness and pity. And finally, maybe you feel a bit of outrage – you are angry that this is still happening in the 21st century.
None of these emotions are necessarily wrong. I often feel the same thing. And yet you and I may be surprised that the emotions expressed by persecuted Christians themselves are often quite different.
This is not to say that persecuted Christians don’t feel sadness, outrage or horror in the midst of their own suffering. But we should be slow to generalize our feelings onto them and quick to listen to them share the range of emotions they often feel.
Take for example the powerful witness of Varia, a former Communist who received Christ and was consequently imprisoned. Here is a portion of her letter as recorded by Richard Wurmbrand in Tortured for Christ,
The sufferings that God sends us only strengthen us more and more in the faith in Him. My heart is so full that the grace of God overflows. At work, they curse and punish me, giving me extra work because I cannot be silent. I must tell everyone what the Lord has done for me. He has made me a new being, a new creation, of me who was on the way of perdition. Can I be silent after this? No, never! As long as my lips can speak, I will witness to every one about His great love (pg. 140)
And listen to how Rev. Wurmbrand himself describes the beauty of imprisoned believers. He said,
There, Christians wear chains with the gladness with which a bride wears a precious jewel received from her beloved. The waters in prison are still. They receive His kiss and His embraces, and would not change places with kings. I have found truly joyful Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground Church and in prison (pg. 94).
Finally, consider the words of Mr. Bae in These are the Generations. He said,
I became thankful to the Lord for this time in prison – his arresting me from my own pride and drawing me into a time of reflecting, of mumbling too soft for words, of striving to remembering by his grace every hymn that we had ever sung, every lesson my grandfather had ever taught. That is how I came to rely on only the Holy Spirit with faith (pg. 55).
In describing their own suffering, persecuted Christians use words such as grace, gladness, thankfulness and strength. Very different from our words of horror, sadness, pity and shock.
And often because of our powerful emotions, we seek ways to remove those Christians from prison. Yet many persecuted Christians say they would not be willing to change places . . . even with kings.
Like you, I don’t completely understand the depths of their feelings, situation or faith . . . and yet I sense that I have much to learn from their example. I sense that like the persecuted church, I must find joy, honor and God’s grace in the midst of difficult circumstances. I sense that instead of only solving problems with my money and power, I must learn to trust God . . . in everything. And more and more I must make a decision to voluntarily take up the cross in my own nation and neighborhood, while the wood is still green.