The Silence of God’s Lambs – Our Responsibility to the Persecuted Church

Last week, I was stricken with a painful infection, one that had me in agony for several long hours. All I could comprehend was pain. My entire focus was on accessing relief. Driven to secure a solution, in four short hours I called my doctor’s office three times and the pharmacy twice.

When I finally experienced relief (only a few hours after receiving a prescription), I happened to read a report by Open Doors about the plight of Christians in countries hostile to our faith, countries where believers suffer pain and hardship for which there is no immediate prescription.

I thought about how we sometimes romanticize persecution and martyrdom as though the brothers and sisters who experience it are some other breed of humans, a people somehow impervious to pain and suffering, a people somehow resigned to yielding their personal hopes and the dreams they have for their children over to a greater cause. All the while we, Christians in countries friendlier to faith, are free to make sacrifice a choice, an a la carte option on some larger Christian menu.

Oh, this year I’m working on developing a quiet time. Maybe next year I’ll make learning to sacrifice my resolution.

Sacrifice? Oh, that was my word of the year in 2012. This year, I’m all about the word refreshment.

This idea that persecuted Christians are made of some other stuff than we is a fallacy we believe so we can sleep at night. Believers facing hatred, oppression, financial hardship, a lowered social status, imprisonment, torture, and death are not “some other kind of Christians.” Their plight isn’t romantic, it’s not the stuff of movies but instead, the stuff of nightmares and true life horror stories. Just like you and me, there are times when they remember the truth of Christ and are fortified in their spirits and times when the voices around them threaten to drown out what is true. Times when they can bear the pain and times when they are tempted to despair of life. Times they sense the presence of God and times when they feel forgotten by their Father and by the rest of the world. 

One day, on the other side of glory, I imagine we’ll sit around great campfires telling stories about the time of the great war for souls. There will be no condemnation there, as there is none now in Jesus Christ. We will no longer feel pain, regret, sorrow, or loss. My North Korean, Pakistani, or Somalian brothers and sisters will not blame me that God assigned me to live in a free land but I imagine they’ll be curious about how I utilized the freedom they could only dream of enjoying.

Some brothers and sisters from persecuted countries will tell me how they prayed for Americans that we would stay strong and not compromise the faith due to soft living and abundant choices. Others will ask if we heard God whisper their names on our hearts during our times of prayer as they suffered in labor camps or in prisons or at the grave sites of loved ones.

When I consider the enormity of the problem of persecution of Christians, I feel small, limited, and without power. Only one of these things is true. I am small but in Christ, I’m far from limited and powerless. There are things we can do that make a difference.  We fret so much about the silence of God but the greater problem is our silence, isn’t it, the silence of God’s lambs in the face of widespread suffering of large portions of His flock.

This is the season the Lord expects to find fruit on our trees. We need to pray now. We need to read our Bibles today. We need to intercede for the persecuted church every day this year – not next. Our brothers and sisters cannot decide to schedule their oppression for a more convenient time so we cannot choose to delay in wrestling with our responsibility toward them. It’s not part of our five-year ministry vision – it’s the reality of God’s family today. We are responsible to act now.

When we’re discouraged because our ministries aren’t as big or well-known as we dreamed, we need to think of persecuted Christians trying to hold on in utter isolation and refuse to yield to self-pity, ego, or selfishness. So, sitting with them in glory we can say to them “In our freedom, we thought of you and we acted on our faith twice – once for ourselves and once in your honor – and so you, too, helped further His kingdom. You share in the fruit of our work because you inspired us.”

The media is rife today with the quotes of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, most of which are deeply informed by the Word of God. As I reviewed some, they spoke to me of my responsibility to live with a heart aware of those who suffer in the name of Jesus:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

The time is always right to do what is right.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. 

                                                                                    -Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King

Our prayers have effect. As for me, every time in the next month that I hear a news blurb about President Trump, I’ll use it as a reminder to stop and pray for Christians persecuted in one of the 10 nations listed here. I’ll research information about the plight of Christians in two of these countries and identify a missionary in each that I can pray for and find ways to support. We can seek God’s face and make it a daily plea for Him to show us how to use our freedom to serve the part of our family who are without theirs. He will answer and then we must obey.

The top 10 nations where it is most dangerous and difficult to practice the Christian faith are: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Eritrea.

God is not silent as often as He is speaking to deaf ears. Let us open our ears to hear His Word about those who suffer. Let us open our eyes to bear witness to the oppression of Christians around the world. Let us open our mouths to voice our intercession to the Father and our advocacy for those that others would have the world forget.

“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:35b-40

By faith in Christ, we belong to this great lineage of faith listed in Hebrews 11. What ways do you know that we can support the persecuted church in our times? Let’s share what we know and act in every way we’re free to act in the name of Jesus. We can end the silence and through our voices and their cries, His message will be heard.

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3 Comments

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  1. Kelly says:

    Thank you Lori! I am challenged by your words. I will be much more intentional to pray for the persecuted brothers and sisters. I love the thought that we can include them in our service to others so that they can also share in the fruit. Wow! Also, the quotes by Rev. Martin Luther King were inspiring and made him more personal to me. A great post as always!

  2. Lori, You have driven me to pray more for my brothers and sister. Thank you!

  3. “God is not silent as often as He is speaking to deaf ears.” Ouch.
    Preach it, Lori…xoxox