Scripture indicates that followers of Jesus can expect persecution on account of their faith. This opposition varies from ridicule, threats, ostracism and violence. The Bible encourages believers to remain faithful in the face of persecution and to draw strength from the example of Jesus himself.
As you read these words – there are Christians who are being arrested, tortured and cruelly treated – just because they are followers of Christ like you and me. That’s why I’m delighted that this month we have, with our friends at Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Release International, published a special edition of the Enough supplement – which forms the centre 16 pages of this issue of Christianity – which tells the story of some of these persecuted believers. And before you dismiss these stories as irrelevant to you – think again. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ and we have a God-given responsibility to care for each other. But don’t worry – reading this supplement will not load you with guilt! Instead it offers practical and do-able responses and action points that individuals and churches can achieve – things like praying and writing postcards. This is unlikely to result in massive discomfort or effort and yet might make a massive difference to isolated believers who need to know that they are not forgotten.
Deborah Xu Yongling, is just one of the people you can read about. This lady has spent most of her life on the run from the Chinese authorities because she preaches and teaches about Christ. Like the apostle Paul her commitment to the gospel has affected her health, but Deborah and others like her have witnessed extraordinary church growth.
Currently she is on bail and is not allowed to travel outside one city. Before that she had been arrested and her family kept in the dark about her whereabouts and condition. It took international pressure before Deborah was released. This demonstrates the value of sharing information and empowering ‘ordinary’ Christians like you and me so we can pray, write letters and lobby politicians on behalf of those falsely imprisoned.
I asked Wes Sutton, senior pastor of the Vineyard Church, Loughton, Essex why he had got involved in helping persecuted believers in Indonesia. He told me; “I realised that I would spend eternity with these people. How could I look them in the eye knowing that I knew what trouble they were in, but did nothing?” Hebrews 13:3 tells us to ‘remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are ill treated as if you yourselves were suffering.’
Please don’t ignore the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, read the supplement, be informed, pray and help make a difference – for Christ’s sake.