Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Persecuted Church

I had a hard time deciding what to write about tonight. For whatever reason, I rarely write about the classes we attend during the day. Today is an exception, however. We heard from a man who focuses on the persecuted Christians in our world. He told us what our brothers and sisters in Christ are enduring in other countries. Some suffer because of their government. Others suffer at the hands of their families.

We heard about pastors who spent decades in prison, being led to believe that their wives had divorced them and their children denied them. We heard about women beaten by their fathers for denouncing their faith of Islam in order to turn to Jesus. We heard about the Christians who were forced to keep their house churches secret for fear of having their children taken from them or imprisonment in reeducation camps, but who vowed to wake up an hour earlier everyday to pray for their brothers and sisters in other countries when they discovered that there were others enduring persecution more severe than they. They persevered through pain, imprisonment, and, worst of all, the suffering of their own, precious children.

As we walked to lunch, we talked about the faith of these saints. We discussed the ways that it differs from North American Christianity, and how there really should be another name for their faith, or for ours. We shouldn't have the privilege to go by the same name that they carry with such joy and perseverance. We, who complain when there aren't enough programs for our children or when the pews are too hard, cannot possibly be put in the same category as they, can we?

Then we asked the question, "Who are we to go to them?" Is this really the Christianity that we want to export to other countries? Is this the faith that we pray for the unbelieving to discover, the me-centered desire for God to serve us?

Of course, it's better that we go. It's better for them to hear than to endure Hell, even if the idea of church has been mutilated in the minds of the sent-out ones. Let's get one thing straight: I love the church of the United States. I love that you can find a church almost anywhere. I love that there are believers all over this great country. I love that we are free to worship. But are we using that freedom, or are we abusing it? Do we really get to know God for who He is as we sit on our padded seats, silently grumbling about the preacher going to long? And even as we sit, our brothers and sisters in other countries are desperately hoping and praying that someone in their congregation could get their hands on a Bible. Is our Christianity the family that God had allowed His Son to die for?

I'm wrestling with these questions tonight. I hope we continue to wrestle. If there's anything that this country needs, it's to learn that North American Christianity may be the least punished, but we may also be the least free. For freedom only exists when it's exercised.