In just a few hours, Christians in my little bubble in North America will gather to celebrate Christmas….there will be Christmas Eve services, pageants…children singing their hearts out for family and friends. Churches everywhere will be signing “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright….”
My Christmas wish is rather simple this year: “That our church becomes more aware of the bubble wrap that we have been surrounded with”. I just finished reading an article, excerpt below that provides some statistical basis for the level of persecution in other parts of the world.
200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” says the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.
He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”
The report, entitled Christianophobia, highlights a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a “Western creed” which can be used to undermine them.
State hostility towards Christianity is particularly rife in China, where more Christians are imprisoned than in any other country in the world, according to the report.
So, before you sing of peace, love and happiness today, remember that the God of All Peace, The God of Love is still on his throne, and that we are still called to celebrate Him sending His Son to this broken and dying world.
Today and tomorrow, I urge you to serve the persecuted church above all. Use this time away from the distractions of work, and calling. Instead of filling your time off with banal activity…take that time and use it for the work of the global church.
When we read of the suffering which our brothers and sisters in Christ endure for the sake of His Name, our hearts are moved and we long to bring them before the throne of grace. But sometimes it is difficult to know exactly how to pray, especially if we have never experienced such injustice or persecution ourselves. The Bible tells us that the Church will be persecuted. So if the Lord will continue to allow persecution, what exactly should we ask Him for when we pray about these situations? I hope that the ten points below will be helpful suggestions, under the guidance and prompting of the Holy Spirit.
- God that He is all-knowing that in Christ He himself experienced shame, pain and agonising death, as well as the glorious resurrection. Thank Him for His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Josh 1:5).
- Pray that all governments will work for justice and righteousness. While Jesus says that in this world we will have trouble, (John 16.33) He does not say that it will always be present in every place.
- Pray that leaders of liberal democracies will use their influence to find ways to reduce, if not end, persecution in countries where it occurs. Just as Paul appealed to Caesar to seek justice (Acts 25), so Christians can appeal to secular governments.
- Pray for the growth of the Church where persecution flourishes, remembering that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
- Pray for strength and courage for those undergoing persecution, and for peace that only God can bring. Thank Him that His grace is sufficient for their needs (2 Cor 12:9). Pray that their faith will not fail, but that their suffering will draw them closer to Him and increase their faith.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable persecuted Christians to forgive and love their persecutors (Matt 5:44) and that their Christ-like reactions will have an impact on their persecutors.
- Pray that the Lord will be at work in the hearts of those who currently persecute our sisters and brothers to bring them to a saving knowledge of Himself, as He did with Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9).
- Thank the Lord for the privilege of entering into the sufferings of our sisters and brothers, remembering that “if one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Cor 12:26).
- Pray that Christians who are experiencing persecution will not lose the ability to accept or trust genuine approaches from those who have formerly persecuted them, as when the believers in Jerusalem had to learn to accept the reality of Saul’s conversion (Acts 9). Pray that the Lord will give discernment, and relief from unnecessary fears.
- Pray for yourself and for persecuted Christians to be spiritually ready for whatever tomorrow brings, be that persecution, respite from suffering or Christ’s return (Matt 24.42).