I knew a man who was persecuted for his Christian faith.
His name was Pastor Mung. He worked with my missionary grandparents in northwestern China before the country fell to Mao’s Communists in 1948. Pastor Mung endured decades of harassment and prison. When he was well into his seventies, he planted a church in Xining, which has since grown to over 10,000 baptized members. Before he died, he left that congregation to start a satellite church at another location. It has over 1,000 members.
American Christians have difficulty appreciating the courage of Christians like Pastor Mung because we practice our faith without negative consequences. But around the world, many believers do not enjoy our easy life. Indeed, the twentieth century saw more Christians martyred for their faith than the previous nineteen centuries of the church combined. James and Marti Hefley have compiled some of those martyrs’ stories in their book, By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs from the Twentieth Century and Beyond.
Persecuted and martyred Christians teach me three things about my faith:
First, I am blessed. We do not reflect often enough on the blessing of living in a land with religious freedom. We can worship publicly, speak openly, pray out loud, and share our faith with whoever will give us a listen. And we can do all this without worrying about going to jail, losing our jobs, or suffering public ridicule. Many Christians—especially in Communist and Islamic countries—do not have those privileges.
Second, great privileges entail great responsibilities. As American Christians, we have the opportunity to affect not only the spiritual climate of our nation, but also that of the world. We can pray for Christians in other lands, send them missionaries for church planting and money for humanitarian relief. We can publicize the plight of suffering Christians and mobilize our vast resources to help them. Many American Christians do. Most—including, all too often, me—do not. What about you?
God may not call American Christians to bear up under the weight of persecution themselves, but he certainly expects us to share the load of those who do. He may not expect us to go to other countries as missionaries or relief workers, but he certainly expects us to send volunteers and cash. We have such great resources at our disposal. What are we using them for?
Third, God can accomplish his purposes in the teeth of suffering. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5.11, 12). God desires to save sinful humanity, so he sends us messengers, culminating with The Messenger, Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many reject both message, messengers, and The Messenger. Persecution was the fate of the prophets and of Christ, and such is the fate of many Christians today.
But God still accomplishes his purpose. We will be blessed if we strive to receive his heavenly reward.