November 4, 2012
Sunday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #249: Hit the Ground, O Men of God
Can you imagine being in a church service on a Sunday morning with a hundred of your closest friends and neighbors, where you are just worshiping God in song, when all of a sudden, you hear sirens wailing outside, and uniformed officers burst through the door, yelling? They force everyone to get down on the floor and lie flat as they stand over you with guns down. It is soon apparent what they came for, and believers are led away in handcuffs.
What? You say this has never happened to you at your church? Thank God for that! (I was going to write a scathing: “Pansies! All of you!” but I decided that would sound a bit harsh, and it could alienate some of my kind readers.) Yes, I see that hand: a question from the back—“You, sir?”
“Oh, why yes, thank you for asking! In fact, this scenario has happened to me at a few different churches I’ve worshiped at. One time, I kept softly playing the piano, an old hymn like ‘Rise Up, O Men of God,’ which was not appreciated by the officers who had stormed in. As in the Old West days of cowboys and saloons, he with the most firepower gets to choose the songs—or no songs at all, in this case. I stopped and dropped.”
Thankfully, in the United States this violent interruption of church services and prayer meetings is limited to our freedom-free zones. Not so for many other parts of the world, such as Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, or India. China, Iraq, and North Korea aren’t known for their religious tolerance either. In these countries, you are at risk of public humiliation, mob punishment, and official condemnation with imprisonment or death just for claiming to believe in the God of the Bible or for choosing to worship Him as you see best. Governments that are not favorable toward Christianity turn a blind eye on anti-religion violence toward Christians, making our day and age the most antagonistic toward Christianity of any time in world history. More believers die for their faith every year now than ever have in centuries gone by.
Organizations around the world try to help relieve the pain and tragedy associated with this all-too-common violence, but often they find themselves simply caring for the families of these modern-day martyrs who are left behind. Voice of the Martyrs (vom.org) is one such organization dedicated to speaking out on behalf of those whose voices are often silenced by the all-too-common violence of their communities.
This year, Voice of the Martyrs has helped to sponsor an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, which will be observed around the world this Sunday, November 11, 2012. Because government restrictions and cultural-religious hostilities limit the options for involvement, engagement, or practical support, there is not much we can do to show our love and concern for these dear people who are being persecuted for their faith. Even prisoners in the United States have more religious rights and privileges than most innocent civilians in oppressed countries!
However, we can pray. We can stand with our brothers and sisters around the world by lifting them up in prayer, asking God to encourage them, protect them, and let them know they are not alone. Though we will likely never know just what they feel nor will we ever face the variety of troubles and trials that millions of these believers face daily, we can help bear their burdens! We can join together, lifting our voices to God in prayer this Sunday … and throughout the year as the Lord brings them to mind.
We have much to be grateful for. Let’s not forget those who have little else but God.