Friday, November 24, 2006

Response #1: Do Not Be Surprised

Eric Schumacher at An Infant in a Cradle preached a sermon on November 12 in honor of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. As a preface, he noted: "It is important that we hear these stories. However, hearing them is not enough. We are called to respond. So, I want to ask this question...: How do we respond to the persecuted church?"

Schumacher posts his sermons online, but I know you won't go over there and read the whole thing (it's long). So, in light of the fact that I'm now on the VOM blogroll and trying to blog regularly about the persecuted church, I think I'll break down his "ten responses to the persecuted church" over the next several weeks, listing his suggestions and adding my thoughts.

1. "Do not be surprised by them."
Are we shocked when we hear of Christians beheaded, wrongly imprisoned, raped, beaten and tortured for their faith? Generally, yes--the violence and injustice are appalling. But while they are appalling, they should not be surprising. If we are surprised by this persecution--it is because we do not really believe Jesus. We don't take Him at His Word--we don't believe He truly means what He says. For He warned of the persecution all along:

"Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. …Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:17-25).

"They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God" (John 16:2).

Schumacher offers several other references to remind us that suffering was what we were told to expect all along, including 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12; and 1 John 3:13.

Should we grieve that our brothers and sisters face suffering and even death because they claim the name of Christ? Of course. But it shouldn't surprise us. These trials are ones Christ Himself assured us would come--and promised us would be used for His glory and our good.

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