Do we feel the pain of our suffering Christian brothers and sisters around the world? If not, why not?
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
We hear a lot about how our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering for their faith. For many of them, it’s a way of life. They live under outright persecution or danger 24/7. Voice of the Martyrs regularly recounts stories of how our Christian relatives are struggling and even dying. For followers of Christ in the West, we hear or read of these stories and too often, go about our business.
This is because we have trouble grasping the concept of body life. We know that we’re all part of the Body of Christ, the universal Church consisting of all the world’s believers. Yet, when it comes to living out that oneness, we fall short. We’re so wrapped up in our own little worlds that we leave no room for anything that requires that we see ourselves as part of something bigger. Everything about our culture is working against us.
We take a step in the right direction as we become a part of a small group within our churches. We feel a sense of oneness, kinship, and loyalty at this level. A few are able to step into the next level where we feel one with our local church. The larger the church, the more difficult this becomes, but it does happen. Even fewer are able to sense or desire a oneness with the other churches in our community. Turf wars and a protective mentality keeps our churches separated. Venturing into the next level, the Church Universal, seems beyond our reach, so we don’t even try.
In several of Paul’s writings, he stresses the importance of seeing ourselves as part of a body. Only God can choose what part we shall be. He uses the analogy of a human body. Some are eyes, others are feet, while others are hands. They must all work together or nothing will be accomplished. No part is greater than another. They all need each other. There can be no living in isolation.
In Romans 12:5, Paul reminds us that in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Did you get that? We belong to each other. We are to be so interconnected and dependent that when one part is injured, the pain is felt throughout the whole body.
It’s easy to live this out in a small group, at least on a superficial level. When one hurts, we all hurt, or at least we should. Sometimes we’re so grateful that we have been “spared” that our desire to avoid pain and discomfort at all cost keeps us from entering into the pain of our brothers and sisters. This is not what Christ desires from us, and it shows how difficult it is for us to think of ourselves as belonging to one another.
AS I SEE IT
Some pain and suffering is just a part of life, but suffering for our faith is a far greater issue. This kind of suffering spreads to every area of our lives. Being persecuted because we have decided to follow Jesus, wherever He leads, takes pain and suffering to a level most of us have never experienced.
Try to put yourself in the place of a believer in China, North Korea, or Iran who is in prison, regularly tortured, taunted, and offered relief if you will simply renounce your faith. What if you knew a family member was also being tortured until you abandoned Jesus Christ. This happens all the time in some countries, and it’s happening to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Can you imagine the anguish they are going through? Can you imagine the torment and the temptations? Can you imagine the despair if they could tell that no one was praying for them? Imagine how alone and isolated they would feel. Imagine the depression, the weakness, the hopelessness.
How such a situation must hurt Christ who gave his life so that we could live as a very special body, the Body of Christ-a body unlike any other-a body so interconnected that when one member rejoices, all the other parts rejoice-a body so unified that when one member suffers, the entire body feels the pain…and fervently prays for the suffering member.
If we feel no pain over the suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world, it is either because we don’t see them as part of the body, or we have disconnected ourselves from the body and are no longer a functioning part of it. Instead, we have chosen to live in our private little bubbles, isolated from all the pain “out there.” Where will you choose to live the rest of your life?
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