This past Wednesday the students, faculty and staff of the school where I serve spent time learning about persecuted Christians around the world. Students met together in the chapel and watched a couple of short videos, including one that tells the story of a man persecuted and imprisoned in Laos. (You can find plenty of videos about persecuted believers on YouTube). Afterwards the students went by ones and twos to different homes on campus where the groups talked about a specific country where Christians are persecuted and spent time in prayer. We made everything as much like it was a secret church meeting as possible–we had “police” out to interrogate students found walking outside, secret knocks were used to gain entrance to the homes, and meetings were held quietly and in the dark.
It was tremendously enlightening for me to learn about the persecution faced by Christians in Eritrea…a country I had heard of but knew almost nothing about.
There is no way to artificially create a setting that will feel exactly like Christians around the world feel when they literally risk their lives to own a Bible, share the gospel, or gather together in prayer. As I sat in my home awaiting the students in my group, however, I was struck by the thought that I have been going to church my whole life, and I have never felt afraid to do so. There are probably a couple dozen Bibles in my house. And while I have not been as bold as I should be in my testimony most of the time, I have never felt that my life would be in danger for sharing the gospel.
That caused me to ask the famous two-word question, “What if?” What if I did live in an environment where those dangers existed? What if I did put myself and my family at risk by owning a Bible or professing Christ? Would I be willing to do it? Would I knowingly risk imprisonment and torture to possess even a page of the Bible?
The sad truth is, I don’t know. I hope I would…but I think it would be arrogant to say with absolute certainty that I would. I am blessed to live in a country where I can own Bibles–as many as I want–attend church as often as I want, pray openly, and tell others about Christ. I must be very careful, though, not to let the freedoms that I have become an excuse for casual Christianity. My faith does not cost me anything, but I must never forget that it cost God His Son, and I need to remember in prayer those who have given their lives in His service, and those who are still risking their lives for Him today.
Thank you, Lord, for the freedoms I have. Help me not to take them for granted. Instead, help me to capitalize on that freedom and be a bold witness for You, salt and light in my sphere of influence. Help me to remember the men and women who are in prison right now for naming the name of Christ, and thousands more who live in constant danger because of their faith. Give me the courage that they have, Lord, the courage to live a life shaped by costly Christianity. Amen.