I have a friend, I’ll call him, “Pamin” (pah-MEEN). He’s Egyptian, a Coptic Christian, lives in the United States and fears for his life. ISIS, he says, is rooted in the United States and he believes would torture and kill him – and other Coptic believers – given the opportunity.
As hard as it is for me to relate to his journey, it isn’t hard for me to believe his fear. After all, he’s felt in his soul the brutal decapitation of dozens of his countrymen at the hands of ruthless terrorists. They were Christian brothers… our Christian brothers. I confess, it bothers me that I don’t feel the pain more deeply in my own soul for these faithful servants of Christ who were heard crying out to Jesus with their last breath before their blood washed from the sandy beaches of Northern Egypt and turned the Mediterranean Sea red.
Christians cry in outrage over our government not doing more to condemn the global killing of Christians across Africa, the Middle East, India and other geographic locations. But let’s be honest, how many of us Christians are earnestly crying out to God on behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters? We’re quick to criticize secular people, yet too often withhold the thing within our power that can make a real difference in the lives of the persecuted: our prayers.
I believe there are a number of reasons for that. I believe we’ve become desensitized to the reality of global horror. We’ve watched planes fly into buildings, trudged into war with armies via the nightly news and witnessed beheadings on YouTube at an alarming rate. Throw in the television shows and movies where violent art imitates violent life and reality and fiction meld into a mush that results in a lost sense of shock.
I also believe lack of shock coupled with the insulated comforts of living in America have fueled our complacency. We don’t know persecution and therefore don’t relate, and therefore the needs simply don’t cross our minds. Let’s be honest, way too many of us focus on ourselves in our prayer time and not on others anyway – and certainly not on others who live on the opposite side of the world. They simply aren’t a priority for us.
So how do you and I change? How do we become sensitized to what is happening to Christians globally and shake ourselves from complacency? Here are four things we can do to stand in solidarity with the globally persecuted followers of Jesus Christ and people everywhere who need to hear the saving message of Jesus Christ.
Pray that God will give us His heart for the nations. We know that He promises in Revelation that there will be some from every tribe, tongue and nation gathered around the thrown of the Lamb. Pray to that end. Salvation belongs to our God but at the same time He uses our prayers and our preaching to accomplish His work. However, seeing others as our Heavenly Father sees them must fuel our passion for prayer and preaching.
Pray that God will strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters who drink from the cup of persecution. Ancient Church Father Tertullian wrote that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” I believe that is true. Look across history and you’ll see the church has grown every place evil has tried to stamp out Christians. The reason is that these dear believers were believers to the end. They refused to renounce Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As a result, God has honored their testimony of faith to draw even their slayers to Himself. Pray that those in the line of fire will be filled with extraordinary faith.
Go…here, there and everywhere. A great place to begin supporting the persecuted and sharing the gospel with internationals is by looking at your own community and identifying the world’s people who live there. Believe me, they are there. Here in Tennessee alone we have more than 130 people groups speaking more than 150 languages. Build cultural bridges, serve and share the gospel. But don’t just stop there. Go across American and around the world. Go and share the gospel with the spiritually lost while encouraging the faith of our international brothers and sisters.
Give…generously. We as Tennessee and Southern Baptists have historically considered ourselves to be Great Commission people, however, the numbers don’t fully compute. On average we donate about $20 per year, per Southern Baptist to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. By comparison, two tickets to Friday’s movie, a large popcorn and a drink costs about $35. Our giving belies our rhetoric. The good news is we have in place The Cooperative Program, the LMCO, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. These offerings are the lifeblood for our Acts 1:8 missions strategy. Just think, if we raised our giving levels to each of these offerings by just one percent we’d have millions of dollars more to more comprehensively invest in the advance of the Great Commission. That number could escalate toward billions if we raised those giving levels to 10 percent.
When I think of our persecuted brothers and sisters I think of the faithful souls taking refuge under the Lamb’s alter in Revelation 6:5. “They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them.”
The journey ahead is still hard and painful for some. On that mark the Bible is definitively clear. For the rest of us, may we be found doing whatever it takes to support them on their journey. And even through the many tears that lie ahead for them and us, it is a joy to be on this journey with you.