Blessed Are The Persecuted
Wednesday - June 10th
Scripture to Read for Today's Devotional: Matthew 5:10-12
Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 5:21-26
"Blessed are those who are persecuted
because of righteousness...”
According to the World Watch List report published by the Non-Government Organization (NGO), Open Doors at the first of the year, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, India, and Syria are all countries that had high rates of documented persecution of Christians in 2019. The World Watch List evaluates 50 countries where Christians face the most severe types of persecution. It provides a startling look at a problem that has only gotten worse, not better for Christians around the world.
The report states that "in 2020, 260 million Christians live in World Watch List top 50 countries where Christians are at risk of high, very high, or extreme levels of persecution. This is up from 245 million in 2019." Global trends toward the abuse of Christians for their faith grow every year. The persecution of Christians around the world should concern us here in the United States. We should be the ones who pray for and speak up for those abused brothers and sisters in these top 50 countries. Many have experienced horrific atrocities simply because of their faith and how they live out that faith in their own native land.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness" (Matthew 5:10). While no Christian should go around with a martyr complex looking for trouble and even persecution, persecution for faith in Jesus is real. In the last year, I have personally had the opportunity to hear first-hand stories from Christian brothers and sisters about what they experienced in Iran, parts of the former Soviet Union, and South Asia. We should be disturbed by accounts of believers being imprisoned, being kept in simple six-foot by six-foot cells, going through harsh interrogations, and being deprived of food and water.
We may face various pressures and some pushback for our faith in the United States, but few of us have genuinely suffered persecution. Some individual stories and experiences do talk about the verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse Americans have suffered for what they believe and how they live. The more the culture around us drifts from the foundation of basic biblical values, the more we will have the unfortunate opportunity to experience wide-scale persecution in our land. Our lack of that kind of abuse here should not make us cold or calloused about abuses in other countries. The people abused are part of the family of God.
A few years back, a Christian friend who leads a ministry organization, went to North Korea as a guest of the North Korean government. He told me that when it comes to faith, it is a cult. They all worship North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. It did not take my friend long to figure out that everywhere he went, audio and video recording devices were recording his every move and every conversation.
On my friend's way to his car with a man assigned to be his host, he thought he heard the man whisper something, but my friend could not make out what the North Korean man whispered. But as they both stood over the open car trunk, the same whispered phrase was said again. This time, he heard what the North Korean man had been whispering. It was short, simple, and to the point. The North Korean man cautiously whispered, "I am a follower of Jesus. There are many of us here in our country." That was it. But, WOW, that was it. That was all they could exchange at that moment. Think of the persecution that man would face if the communist regime discovered his faith in Christ and his connectivity to other North Korean believers.
Does the abuse of millions of fellow believers around the world bother you? It should. Persecution does not discriminate. People will harm children, women, and the elderly in their angry attempts to stop Christianity from spreading around the world. We cannot ignore the suffering of our fellow Christians trapped inside a country where this kind of bias against Christianity stands.
Pick one of the countries I mentioned in the early part of this email (North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, India, and Syria). Pray over that nation tonight. Pray over that nation tomorrow. Plan to spend a week praying daily for that country and the Christians there. To explore what is happening to Christians in the country you will be praying over, go to the websites of Open Doors and/or the Voice of Martyrs and learn more so you can pray more specifically.
Let's stand with our persecuted brothers and sisters in their suffering. Let's pray God's grace of protection over them.