As If You Yourselves
by Rob Weingartner
Typically, I put a quotation or Scripture verse that has connected with me in a fresh new way at the end of my email signature. The verse that appears now is from Hebrews: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3 NIV)
We who follow Christ in the relative security of the United States don’t often think of being imprisoned for our faith, but it is a familiar experience for many of Jesus’ followers in other parts of the world. That shouldn’t be a surprise. In speaking of the end of this age, Jesus says, “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.” (Luke 21:12) Jesus told his followers that following him would get them into trouble!
In the history of the Christian movement, it has often been in the experience of persecution that the church has grown deepest, and fastest. I think of the growth of the church in China, underground, during the Cultural Revolution, the growth of the church in Iran today through house churches at a time when Evangelical Christians cannot gather publicly, and the growth of the church in Ethiopia during the Dirge communist regime. One Ethiopian church leader said to me, “Yes, we have been a persecuted church. If not, we would have been more careless.”
I don’t hope for persecution, and I hope that the persecution that many of our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing will end. At the same time, I think about the connection between imprisonment and deeper faith, a deeper commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. And I think about how comfort and security can weaken our will to bear witness to the Lord.
We may not be in prison ourselves, but our faith can grow if we heed the exhortation of Hebrews: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” To do that, we need to pay attention to what is going on in the world outside our own place of comfort, be prepared to advocate for others, and pray. By the way, according to Open Doors the country where Christians now face the greatest persecution is North Korea.
Today, as a way of remembering those in prison, I invite you to pray for Pastor Andrew Brunson who has now spent more than 125 days wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey. He is an EPC pastor from North Carolina facing unfounded charges after faithfully serving the people of Turkey for 23 years. Please remember.