History tells a mystifying truth. That is, God’s Church grows deeply and expands rapidly when she is made to hurt. One might assume the opposite, but time and again, history affirms that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
This was true from the start. Shortly after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter and John were preaching the gospel in Jerusalem when the rulers became so annoyed at the message of Jesus’ resurrection that they had them arrested (Acts 4:2-3). In response, “many of those who had heard the gospel believed” in Jesus and were saved (Acts 4:4)! Suffering for the gospel was not just tolerated in the early church; it was expected.
Jesus did not hide this from his followers. He said, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). And this same Peter who was imprisoned in Acts 4 would later write, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
At least for now, however, we are very prone as Christians to think of persecution on American soil as something strange happening to us. The church in America has enjoyed little affliction for her love of the gospel compared to others. While we struggle not to be surprised at the growing tension to our faith, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ live daily in contexts of persecution. They wake up believing and hoping in the gospel. And as a result, they are beaten, disavowed, imprisoned, and in many cases, martyred.
They need our help, our love, and our support.
Read these pertinent words. from Hebrews 13:3: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Consider this question that was recently posed to me. If similar persecution ever visits us in America, will we be content to have our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world remember and pray for us, with the same vigilance and compassion that we now remember and pray for them?
The first Sunday in November is set apart as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This day and every other day is a fitting reminder to pray for the body of Christ around the world, for the spread of the gospel, and for the members of our faith family whose blood and pain are paving roads towards the completion of the Great Commission!