I recently had an opportunity to watch a film about The Voice of the Martyrs founder, Richard Wurmbrand. Richard was a Lutheran pastor during the 1940’s and was imprisoned in Soviet-occupied Romania for speaking out publicly against communism, claiming Christianity and communism were incompatible. He stood up as a well-known citizen in his community and defended the name of Jesus. Right in the middle of a pro-communism rally. Right in the face of evil.
Before being kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured daily for 14 years, Wurmbrand led a secret church in his small apartment, even baptizing new believers in his bathtub. Because atheism was the state religion of the Soviet Union, it was illegal to practice Christianity. He had a great love for the soviet soldiers, and risked his life daily to share the gospel with them. He risked everything he had to love the very same people who persecuted him. He didn’t withdraw preaching the gospel when the laws of his country were changed.
If you’re anything like me, seeing a story like this makes me grateful to live where I do. I really dodged the persecuting bullet. Although, part of me is quite jealous. I want that passion. I want that boldness. I want that zeal for spreading the gospel like Richard had, but I think those things almost always come under pressure. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10) How badly do we want that blessing?
Christians in the US can’t really empathize with Mr. Wurmbrand. We are free to worship as we please. What if that changed? Lets face it – we love our American comforts. We love being able to profess Christ and the Gospel as long as its legal to do so, and doesn’t rock the boat too much. We blame “taking God out of schools” as the reason for school violence, but why on earth did we teach our kids to stop praying when the government banned school-sponsored prayer? Why did we teach them to withdraw the gospel because the world told us to? We cower far too easily. The message we’re sending to our kids is that even when the smallest means of persecution arises, its ok to cease preaching and praying in order to not offend the lost. Nobody kicked God out of anything, God’s people just stopped being bold.
We cannot expect the American church to thrive when it depends on the world to give it permission to do so. I think we should begin to realize that America isn’t God’s precursor to the Kingdom of God. If we actually lived out the words of Jesus, we would be hated here too (Matthew 10:22). We can’t depend on our rights, legislation, or candidates to make things easy for us to advance the Kingdom. We can only depend on Christ and His supreme sovereignty to provide us with the necessary faith to handle the inevitable persecution.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)
Paul warned Timothy that the persecution he was suffering wasn’t limited to himself, but is promised to every believer in Christ. The American church hasn’t exactly had to deal with the extent of suffering that Paul had to endure, but what if it was coming? Its happening across the globe today, why not here? I’m not sure we’re ready. We would rather point the finger at the lost for making things inconvenient for us to spread the gospel than rejoice to suffer under the banner of Christ and His Kingdom (1 Peter 4:12-13)
We as a church aren’t preparing ourselves the right way. We should be leaning into God’s sovereignty while the country grows colder to the gospel. We should be trusting that God’s purpose will prevail no matter who the current president is. I remember reading posts from so many believers absolutely panicking over the thought of Hillary Clinton becoming the next president. The only relief was on election night, but not because their hearts were quickened to the sovereignty of God. Only after Trump was elected president did they feel confident in their future, as if somehow we’re safe now. We are showing the world that we put our trust in ourselves, not the Father.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Paul is painting a grim picture of the last days. There is no reason to expect laws of the United States to remain partial to Christianity. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with wanting those laws to remain partial, it is sinful to place our trust in them.
We protect and defend our rights as American Christians no matter the cost, but certainly don’t share the same zeal when it comes to the gospel. We often respond with pride, hate and bigotry when another group pushes an agenda that goes against Christianity. Rather than respond with love, we belittle the emotions of the lost that are confused about their gender because we don’t understand. Instead of coming to the table with the love of Christ, we publicly announce that we’re going to boycott certain stores with a certain bathroom policy. Instead of exhausting all efforts to bring Christ to the classrooms, we scold the younger generation for walking out of their classrooms in protest.
The fact is that our country is changing, and God is in complete control of that change. Our hope and joy as Christians should only remain in the promise that God is working all things for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). Possibly in this life, but definitely in eternal glory with Him.
The American church still has one job; to spread the name of Christ to all nations. American Christians must stop getting preoccupied with trying to control our own comforts and rights in this country and simply focus on Christ. We’re only sojourners. He is our home, not here. Jesus is our savior, not America.