This morning before service I got a notification on twitter reminding me that today is “International Day of Prayer” for the persecuted church. My first reaction was: “Perfect! Let’s write about it!” Until I found myself sitting behind my laptop asking myself, “…what should I say?”
The majority of us know the bare minimum about the persecuted church. We know that persecuted churches are typically located in countries that don’t allow the people to freely worship Jesus. We know that sometimes the police get involved or some Christians may even end up in prison. We know that Bibles are hard to find as we may have stumbled upon an emotional video clip on YouTube of people opening boxes of New Testaments.
But how do we take all of this head knowledge and relate? Most of us live in America, not really knowing the true scope of persecution.
How can we look at the persecuted church and see it as more than just an unfortunate group of people in some remote location worlds away?
How can we connect with something that we have never personally experienced or have never even really seen from a close proximity?
It’s really hard to empathize with something we don’t understand. So…I thought about it and prayed over it and realized something profound.
We may not understand what it’s like to be persecuted, but we ALL understand what it’s like to be rejected.
So I decided to ask people on social media about their rejection experiences and I got a lot of different responses. Some were rejected from jobs, others from romantic relationships, and some from friends.
Now, what does this have to do with persecuted Christians?
Being persecuted for one’s faith IS rejection. It is being rejected by society, by family members, by loved ones, and by people of different ideologies (specifically in the Middle East). Christians in Iran are rejected from schools, the workforce, and many other areas of life.
If we in America struggle with relating to the persecuted church and struggle with finding ways to empathize with it, we can relate on the level of rejection. We can each recall a time in our lives when we have been rejected by others and use those experiences to fuel our prayers and enter into genuine empathy and love for these people.
On this International Day of Prayer, let’s honestly and earnestly pray not just for God to help the persecuted church, but also for a heart that truly breaks for these brothers and sisters suffering for the cause of Christ.