Few in the United States choose to follow Jesus Christ with the threat of death as a possible consequence. In much of the world, however, many embrace Christianity knowing that their decision will cost them dearly. Yet we—who enjoy freedom of worship that others before us boldly dared to secure—are strangely detached and silent about modern day Christian martyrs.
Accounts of Christian persecution that reach North American ears are horrifying and heartbreaking. Our counterparts who face brutal ongoing persecution in the African continent, the Middle East and Asia stand in stark contrast to the insipid and trivialized Christianity prevalent in the West.
One recent true-life story is burned into my memory. A young man who became a Christian in Kenya was immediately disowned by his family. When they discovered he attended secret church meetings, relatives raided his house, beat him mercilessly and took his wife and children away.
Fleeing to another town, his safety was short lived. A hit squad armed with machine guns first riddled his rented house with bullets, and then bombed it. Miraculously, the young Christian survived and endured two weeks of unimaginable torture in prison—all for the crime of owning a Bible.
Why won’t North American Christians pray for suffering brothers and sisters around the world?
Unfortunately, most don’t have a clue about the number of Christians affected by persecution. In Asia alone, the numbers are astounding.
An article published on January 16, 2019 in the South China Morning Post reports that Asia is the “new hotbed of Christian persecution.” (1) Of the 403 million professing Christians from Afghanistan to the Korean Peninsula, one-in-three are currently suffering intense persecution. Do the math; it’s appalling. That nearly 140 million Christians in Asia alone are being persecuted should send chills down your spine.
Churches burned to the ground, pastors and their families tortured, jailed or imprisoned and even murdered with their congregations routinely brutalized and massacred for their faith are common occurrences not only in Asia, but also in Africa, the Middle East, South America and parts of Europe.
In the one area of the world where persecution is rare, prayer for others who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ at great personal cost is also rare. Why? Because, we don’t really care.
Most churches don’t even remember persecuted saints on the one Sunday designated as such each year. Apathy and lack of compassion contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture.
“Remember the prisoners [beleaguered brethren in Christ] as if chained with them—those who are mistreated [persecuted]—since you yourselves are in the body [of Christ, i.e. Christians] also” (Heb. 13:3).
The verse is not a suggestion. The word translated “remember” is an imperative. That prayer for persecuted Christians must be more than a once-a-year event is implied. We are commanded to pray as we become aware of the circumstances of persecuted brethren.
Here’s what North American Christians can do
Praying for our beleaguered brothers and sisters in Christ should be the priority of every Christian every day.
Churches must lead the charge by not only making their congregations aware of the injustices and evil the body of Christ endures worldwide, but earnestly pray on Sunday mornings for individual cases of persecution that have occurred during the week.
The boldness, courage and tenacity of persecuted 21st century Christians should be praised and applauded during Sunday morning worship. Are these saints any less heroes of the faith than those highlighted in the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews?
Sadly, many Christians tell me that their pastors and small group leaders are unwilling to fulfill the biblical imperative to pray for the persecuted. In response, conscientious individuals are organizing small Bible study prayer groups. This is where the battle is fought.
In light of the growing intolerance to our Judeo-Christian worldview, which is the bedrock of Western civilization, two more nagging questions beg to be answered.
Would North American Christians remain firm in the faith under the circumstances our brothers and sisters in Christ are now enduring? How can we presume to expect anything other than detached silence from fellow Believers if we neglect the call to pray for persecuted Christians today?
It is high time for Christians in the West to not only break the corporate silence of the North American church, but raise our voices in a chorus of prayer that reaches into the very throne room of God (Heb. 4:16).
1) McDermid, Charles, “Asia is ‘new hotbed of Christian persecution’ with situation in China worst since Cultural Revolution,” South China Morning Post, January 16, 2019.
1) Every Christian Praying, Every Day. (Photo used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: Pixabay/[Public domain]/Digital composition, MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © 2019 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. In his ministry with Olive Tree Alliance, Inc., Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.