Matthew 25:43 – I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.
It may come as a surprise that more Christians have been martyred in the twentieth century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. There are several reasons for this:
1. The Christian faith has grown very rapidly in third world countries over the last thirty years. In 1960, over 70 percent of all Christians lived in North America and Western Europe. In 1990, 70 percent of all Christians lived in non-democratic third world countries. The large numbers of new believers are perceived as a threat, so these regimes persecute Christians.
2. In parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, an increasingly radical and militant strain of Islam is taking political power. These governments are declaring a jihad or holy war against Christians and other non-Muslims.
3. Communist regimes in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba observed the role Eastern European Christians played in the downfall of the USSR. They are determined not to let this happen again, so they persecute Christians.
Strangely, the Church in North America is mostly silent about this abuse. Perhaps it's because we believe that persecution is something to be expected. Jesus said: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven." (Matthew 5:11-12)
But this is no excuse to remain silent about persecution. Here are some things you can do:
1. Educate yourself on the issues. Recent books, like Their Blood Cries Out by Paul Marshall and In the Lion's Den by Nina Shea, are tremendous resources.
2. Write a letter to your newspaper or government alerting them to the critical cause of Christian persecution.
3. Identify with the plight of the persecuted by turning out the lights and holding a "secret" Bible study by candlelight. Remember that many believers do not even have an entire Bible.
4. Pray. Tomorrow, Sunday, November 16, 1997, has been declared an International Day of Prayer for the Suffering Church, by the World Evangelical Fellowship.
Prayer: Thank You, God for the faithful witness of persecuted believers. Sustain and uphold the spouses, children, and families of persecuted believers. Move the hearts of believers to provide Bibles and other Christian literature. Oh Lord, raise up more leaders among the persecuted church. And convict the consciences of the oppressors of Christians, that they may experience repentance and salvation. In Jesus' name. Amen.