327. Prison- Just Part of the Program

Prison: Just Part of the Program for Some Christians
Last August, a Pew Research Center study reveled that restrictions on religious beliefs and practices increased in 23 of 198 countries between mid 2006 and mid 2009 (up 12 percent). These 23 counties comprise 32 percent of the world’s population. Not surprisingly, most of the persecution is against Christians. While the natural reaction for Christians is to protest such atrocities, believers fail to understand how all this could possibly be part of God’s plan. (Actually, the most common reaction among Christians is apathy, but that’s an issue for another article.)
Consider the powerful epistles Paul wrote while imprisoned in Rome. In Philippians, he wrote that his circumstances had actually turned out for the greater progress of the gospel. The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos. John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison. Richard Wurmbrand, founder of “Voice of the Martyrs, saw his own imprisonment as simply one more opportunity to share Christ. His classic book Tortured for Christ is only 10 percent about torture and the mistreatment of Christians. The rest is devoted to examples of heroic responses that resulted in the advancement of the kingdom.
Wurmbrand wrote in his book that a great part of his own family had been murdered. He also wrote that it was in his own house that their murderer was converted. Tom White, current VOM Director, tells of meeting a house church leader in China who had been arrested seven times and spent years in jails, prisons, and labor camps. His own “house group” consisted of over six million believers. To them, persecution was seen as a normal part of the Christian experience.

We easily forget that Jesus prophesied that persecution would be a natural outcome of our witness. It is of course, right to demand justice for all those whose basic human rights have been violated, but the promotion of human rights is no substitute for the calling on all Christians to deny ourselves and take up our crosses as we follow Jesus. We in America have invented our own brand of Christianity that doesn’t interfere with all the comforts we have come to expect. Our “church” consists of padded seats, an air conditioned auditorium, great music and an uplifting message. Afterward, we ride in our plush dual-temperature controlled SUV on our way to lunch at our favorite restaurant. Somewhere, Jesus’ call to live lives characterized by sacrifice got lost in translation. I shudder to think of what it will take for the majority of Christians in America to learn what Jesus’ version of Christianity is really all about.¬†


When Insults had Class
“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”-Mark Twain

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