November 11, 2014
Persecution: Is a Workaround Possible?
By Brittany Tedesco
Native missionaries in Vietnam reach remote tribal groups by motorcycle.
It’s not easy being a Christian in Central Asia. In Uzbekistan where the majority of the population is Sunni Muslim, you’ll receive a fine for not attending the mosque. But the fine wasn’t enough to force one Uzbek woman, who became a Christian, to keep attending a shrine of false religion.
Even after receiving a fine, she continued to stay away from the mosque…and she even had the audacity to tell her neighbors about Christ. Then one fateful day, as she was leaving a neighbor’s home, she was surrounded by men who beat her badly. She hobbled away, rejoicing that she was counted worthy to suffer for Christ. Her face is permanently disfigured.
It’s not easy being a Christian in Vietnam, where authorities view Christianity as an American religion and assume you’re a spy working for the CIA. One man, who spends his life evangelizing the tribes living in Vietnam’s highlands, has been thrown into dungeon-like prisons six times. Worst of all was when he spent an entire 25 months alone in a hole in the ground – he saw the light of day only for beatings.
When he was finally released, he had to be carried out. At an emaciated 90 pounds, he was too weak to walk. He’d contracted malaria and his body was covered with eczema. But nothing could stop him from sharing Christ. To this day he spends his time sharing the gospel with tribal Vietnamese. I’ve met him. His countenance radiates joy—joy that can’t be stolen by beatings and inhumane treatment.
It’s not easy being a Christian in Pakistan, where you can be falsely accused of blasphemy against Islam so that people have an excuse to brutalize you. Last week, a Christian man and his pregnant wife were burned alive by an angry mob incited by a Muslim cleric.
It’s not easy being a Christian in Laos where you can be denied education or forced from your village because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
It’s relatively easy being a Christian in America, where I live.
I read stories like the above quite often, and they never cease to shake me. They make me gasp or cry. Why do these precious people have to suffer so?
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first,” Jesus said to His disciples. “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 NIV).
Yes, Jesus, I know, but do Your disciples really need to be so bold? What if they just toned down their message a bit…maybe shared the gospel more selectively, not so widely?
What if they tried not to stand out so much…blended in more? What if they found common ground with the peoples around them?
In some Middle Eastern countries, a person’s religion is stated on their ID card. But, is it really “wise” for a believer from a Muslim background to change his ID card from Muslim to Christian? How will he ever obtain employment? No one will want to hire him. He will be ostracized…or worse.
Couldn’t he just continue worshipping at the mosque? If he stops going, he’ll face consequences. People will know something’s up.
Lord Jesus, couldn’t he just acknowledge You in his heart? Isn’t it what’s in the heart that really matters?
Otherwise, he might suffer loss, be tortured, thrown into prison…thrown into the fiery furnace…thrown into the lion’s den.
“We want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up,” said Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to King Nebuchadnezzar.
But you guys might get thrown into the furnace! Just bow down, for heaven’s sake. It’s what in your heart that really matters.
When Daniel learned of a decree that a person who prayed to anyone except to King Darius would be thrown into a lion’s den, it didn’t disrupt his routine. He continued to kneel in front of an open window three times a day to pray to God.
Did he really need to be so blatant about it? I mean…he didn’t need to pray in front of an open window. He didn’t have to kneel. He could have prayed silently, in his heart.
In today’s world, people in so many countries will face severe consequences if they decide to follow Christ. There’s got to be some kind of workaround.
What if we told Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus that they could follow Jesus while remaining relationally, culturally, and socially a part of the religious community of their birth?
Dear friends, the above statement is the very definition of something called the Insider Movement. It is a dangerous and insidious teaching that is spreading across the globe. It teaches people that it’s possible to follow Christ without making any changes to your life or taking any stands for your faith. It teaches Muslims to remain inside the mosque.
The Insider Movement was probably born from a genuine desire to see people come to Christ. Perhaps it was designed by people like me, whose hearts were broken by stories of persecution…and they thought a workaround was possible.
Maybe it was born from fear. Persecution is a scary prospect, and it separates those who follow Christ from those who merely claim His name.
“Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away” (Mark 4:16-17 NIV).
“Spiritual advice that contains fear is not of God,” said Harun Ibrahim, director and founder of Al Hayat-TV, a Christian satellite network that reaches 60 million households throughout the Middle East. Multitudes of Muslims have put their faith in Christ because of it. But it never would have materialized if Ibrahim had listened to the many Christians who advised him not to produce it. They were worried he’d get them all killed.
As one Sudanese Christian, who used to be a violent, radical Muslim, said, “We need to get rid of the presumption that following Christ doesn’t cost anything. It does.”
It might just cost you your life one day.
Since the death of Jesus, more than 70 million believers have been martyred because they refused to deny His name.
“They triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11
Will we join their number should persecution strike us one day? Or will we shrink back, deluded into thinking there’s a workaround?
And while we enjoy relative comfort and freedom to practice our faith, will we pray for the persecuted church and give of our resources to the suffering saints?
Will we acknowledge and honor them, instead of acting like their sacrifices are unnecessary?
I know where I stand. How about you?