Recent world news is rife with heart wrenching stories about the persecutions that are being experienced by our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, especially in the Middle Eastern countries of Syria and Iraq. Within the past few weeks there has been news of beheadings, shootings, and crucifixions of members of our family in Christ. Thousands of other Christians are being driven from these countries as the armies of ISIS attempt to set up an Islamic Caliphate in these nations. Late last week the Christians in Mosel were commanded to leave the city. There has been a Christian presence in Mosel for the past 1700 years. In fact, we know that there was a Christian presence in that part of the world before the end of the first century AD. For, Simon Peter wrote his first epistle from Babylon. “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you sends you greetings and so does my son Mark” (I Peter 5:13). During the reign of the Emperor Claudius, all Jews were commanded to leave Rome (Acts 18) and many of them fled to Babylon. Today, our brothers and sisters in Christ in that region of the world are being exiled, persecuted, and killed for the crime of having placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that these things are so very foreign in our experience that it is hard to imagine. This ruthlessness is rooted in the fact that in the eyes of Islam, Christians are infidels.
Imagine not being waited on at Safeway or in The Mall simply because you are a Christian. Imagine being harassed and hounded on the streets because your car was seen in a church parking lot this past Sunday. Imagine being jailed as a criminal and your only crime is that of loving Jesus. Imagine being stopped by an angry mob commanding you to recant or die. What has it cost you to live for Christ today?
Don’t get me wrong, I cherish the religious freedom that we have in this nation today. But there are times that I believe we have had it so easy that we become complacent and shed quickly the thoughts that our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are still paying a great price as they embrace the Savior. Do we have an obligation to them? Yes, we do. The author Hebrews wrote, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).
That “we are in the body” brings to mind the apostle Paul’s words from I Corinthians 12 where he makes the case that we are individual parts of a single body, the Body of Christ. These are his words that ring in my ears today, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (I Corinthians 12:26).
What should we do in light of these most recent revelations? At the least, we must imagine ourselves at the side of our brothers and sisters (as though their cellmate) who are suffering, we can hold their hands up with our intercessory prayers; praying for their deliverance but if deliverance does not come that they will be faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10). We can also assist them with our giving. There are many good organizations that presently minister to the persecuted church. They include, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, The Persecution Project, Servant’s Heart, and Stand Today just to name a few.
Please, “remember the prisoners and those who are ill-treated” just because they love Jesus.