I recently read two books written by two different Christian men who have suffered severe persecution and torture for being Christian and sharing the gospel. You wouldn’t believe the things that happened to these men. People who don’t believe that the accounts of the New Testament are real historical events need to just look around at what is still happening in the world to this very day. The same sorts of events that are written about in the bible are still happening, both the persecution of Christians and the glorious miracles that God does in the midst of that persecution. The two books are called, “Tortured for Christ” and “The Heavenly Man”. After reading them, I am a firm believer that every Christian, especially in countries that are free and not facing this type of persecution, needs to read at least one of these books or another like it.
One of the amazing things that I took away from both of these books is that the current torture and persecution of Christians in other parts of the world is not keeping them from sharing the gospel, but it’s actually motivating them to share it more often and with greater boldness. How does this affect those of us who live in free countries, where we are openly allowed to share the gospel? At the very least, it should encourage us to ask why torture and death are leading to a bolder proclamation and a more pure gospel, while our comfort is leading to a tempered down proclamation and a watered down gospel? Secondly, I believe that we can draw off of the faith of our persecuted brothers and sisters.
Personally, I wrestle with this in my life. Sometimes, I prefer to simply rest in and hide behind all of the comforts of where I live. It’s much easier to just make my living, spend time with my family and friends, and avoid uncomfortable situations of any kind. But is that love? Is that the Christianity that Jesus taught us and showed us? The answer is quite simply, “No, it’s not.” The gospel that Jesus preached is proactive and offensive. It pursues people in love, while at the same time convicting them by cutting directly to the heart of their sin. When I step out to share the gospel with someone, and I see that they are not receiving it well, I have a tendency to immediately shift my approach to keep the conversation from getting uncomfortable.
Thank God the Holy Spirit is a patient and loving teacher. He is teaching me how to stand firm with love and truth, but He only has the opportunity to teach me if I step out and try. I can only learn if I am willing to fail, and potentially be rejected in the same way that the church in other countries is willing to face torture and death.
People sometimes do crazy things when they reject and suppress the gospel. Sometimes that suppression results in tyrannical dictatorships that torture, kill and brainwash millions of people. Other times it leads to a society that is apathetic and indifferent and gets a little angry when people want to talk about the reality of the gospel. Most of us thankfully fall in the second category. Sharing the gospel is very rarely met with physical torture or death, but it is often met with rejection and anger. Should that opposition cause us to either stop sharing the gospel or to share it in a way that ensures it won’t offend anyone?
We have such an incredible opportunity in free countries, and it’s easy to take that opportunity for granted. We are FREE to share the gospel with a hurting and broken world that desperately needs Jesus. We have more resources than we could ever possibly need. Our brothers and sisters in persecuted nations have a hard time finding bibles, they face torture and death, and yet they joyfully proclaim the gospel to everyone, including their torturers. What are we doing with our unlimited resources and freedom? More importantly, what are you doing with yours? If you have truly experienced the love and salvation of Jesus Christ, then you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is something every single person needs more than anything else in this world. It’s worth sharing it, even if it leads to some rejection and discomfort. The gospel is something worth fighting for!
A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14: 25-27