So You’re A Christian?

So lately I’ve been thinking really hard about the underground church. The underground church refers to the believers and followers of Christ all around the world that do not have the freedom to worship freely. This dedicated body of believers are willing to die for their faith, the very same faith that the majority of people here who claim to have it don’t even acknowledge on a daily basis. Tell me this; How can the average Christian in America and Asia Bibi be of the same faith.

Example. Recently I was talking to someone close to me and mentioned the fact that there are people in other parts of the world that can get arrested  or even killed for their faith. His response was “Well I’m sure the Lord would understand”, as he proceeded to describe his way out of a situation. This person, mind you, would also most likely call himself a Christian, and he may very well be saved, who am I to judge a man’s soul. My point is that we take too much for granted.

Daily, there are Christians persecuted simply for believing in Jesus. Richard Wurmbrand, in Tortured For Christ, tells of a pastor forced to watch his son be beat to death:

He was forced to stand for two weeks, day and night. The communists wished to compel him to betray his brethren, but he resisted steadfastly. In the end, they brought his fourteen year-old son and began to whip the boy in front of his father, saying that they would continue to beat him until the pastor said what they wished him to say. The poor man was half mad. He bore it as long as he could. When he could not stand it any more, he cried to his son; “Alexander, I must say what they want! I can’t bear your beating any more!” The son answered, “Father, don’t do me the injustice to have a traitor as a parent. Withstand! If they kill me, I will die with the words, ‘Jesus and my fatherland’.” The communists, enraged, fell upon the child and beat him to death, with blood spattered over the walls of the cell. He died praising God. Our dear brother Florescu was never the same after seeing this.

A casual commitment plagues believers in the western world. Read on as Francis Chan describes what he witnessed on a recent trip overseas:

The church overseas was pretty much what I expected:  devoted and passionate.  Leaders in India explained that it makes no sense for a person to make a casual commitment to Jesus in a place where there is persecution.  Only a person who genuinely believes would endure the suffering that goes into being a Christian.  I was blessed for the chance to talk to people who were beaten for their faith.  Especially memorable were a couple women I met who were kicked out of their villages for following Christ.  Pregnant at the time, they gave birth in the jungle with only their husbands by their sides.  As they shared about the struggle to find food for their children, I realized I had nothing to ever complain about.

Speaking to underground church leaders in China was equally enlightening.  Most surprising to me was their response when I told them about “church” in America.  I did not expect the response I got when I explained how common it is for people to switch churches if they find another with better child-care, better music, or a more gifted speaker.  They laughed really hard.  It was weird.  It was like they thought I was joking.  It opened my eyes to the uniqueness of our situation.  Remember that India and China combined represent almost 40% of the world’s population.  The U.S. represents about 4%.  Too often I have looked at other cultures as being strange.  I forget that we are the minority.

A recent story published by Elam Ministries tells of the atrocities committed in Iran:

Armed, plain-clothes, special security officers forcefully entered the homes of Christians while they were asleep, and verbally and physically abused them. They were handcuffed and taken for interrogation. Among those arrested were five married couples. One couple was separated from their two-year old baby. Another couple was also forced to leave their baby that the mother was breastfeeding. A number of single young women were also among those taken.-

These people need your prayer more than your sympathy. It is easy to read things like this for the emotional high, but never forget that the faith some hold so loosely was established by blood, and remains blood-soaked to this day. Pray! Pray for these people to be encouraged by the Lord. Pray that the Holy Spirit would comfort them.

As you consider whether or not you’ll go to church this weekend, consider a story like this:

When we were in Mumbai (the city where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed) we had the humbling opportunity to visit a slum church. It was around 7:30pm. We were dropped off by car at a crowded, dirty “marketplace” of sorts… and made our way down the alleys amidst a lot of stares. Once again, they stared in unbelief at little white boy.  It was kind of later in the evening, but it seems everyone was in the streets and alleys, probably escaping the small confines of their rickety, despairing little homes. We peeked in at a few doorways (which are not graced with a door…maybe a curtain at best) and you could see the older people sitting on the hard cement floor, the look of defeat somehow showing in their body language. I found myself whispering to Mercy, “Do you see inside honey? Do you see how they live every day?”  We finally wound around to a small room that does have a door, and from it we could hear the sound of worshipping. Inside the dimly lit room, probably no bigger than my bedroom, was the Church, about 50 precious people singing to Jesus in the thick humidity and unsanitary conditions. Mostly women and children, who looked up at us with shy but happy smiles as we filed in the back. I was struck with just how beautiful Jesus must be to these people… people who have nothing. Sometimes I have to work at finding Jesus really beautiful and someone to treasure…because I am surrounded by beauty and treasures every day.  What true joy and hope it must give these believers… to know that their time here is temporary. What comfort it must give them to know that Jesus will come for them, and truly the last shall be first. The hope of Heaven must be something to cling to in this place.I can’t help but think that the Light coming from this room must be a draw to the people living outside its walls. There’s no promise of immediate comfort, no earthly riches being offered… but Jesus is preached, and He is a living God! …”You shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Phil 2.

Peace, Love, and Hairgrease. I’ll leave you with this video to chew on:

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