Yesterday, I stumbled upon this reposted blog by a guy I knew from the BCM at UGA. I’m not the kind to typically borrow other people’s work for writing fodder, but as I read this guy’s story I felt an immediate brewing in my soul. I have been chewing on this for the last 20 hours or so, so please read it here.
What struck me was the sense of dread and fear that washed over me as I read it. Why? This is Georgia! And while stories like this have been becoming more common, (like this one in New York and one very similar in California) Atlanta, while being worldly, metropolitan and international is still very small town and part of the Bible belt. I was surprised that this is happening here.
And maybe that’s a problem. The American church, regardless of denomination (totally my opinion) has grown fat, comfortable and in some cases (not all) complacent because of our lack of persecution. Yes, the media often gives Christians a bad rap, and in the large corporate, political or even education spectrum, being outed as a conservative (like me) can cause “a fate worse than death.” However, we are in NO way facing the challenges that our international brothers and sisters in Christ face on a day to day basis.
Last semester I learned about the Back To Jerusalem movement and read a book that chronicled the larger part of the history of the Chinese church and this particular movement. If you want to borrow it, I’d be happy to lend it to you or you could buy it – it’s cheap. Anyway, their story is moving and convicting. The provisions made for these people by God are nothing short of miraculous and the number of people imprisoned and persecuted for their faith is heartbreaking. One cannot read this book without being challenged. And of course it’s not just China; Egypt has been making the news lately, even though Christian persecution is not a popular news lead, and stories from places like Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan and Iran cover the Voice of the Martyrs website.
While it is unnerving that the very country that has promised freedom of religion and assembly is now trying very hard to restrain those freedoms through permits, citations and fines that are technically legal, maybe we should be rejoicing in this.
James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3). I by no means think it’s super cool that this poor man has been stuck with all these fines and is essentially being harassed. However, I do think that despite these hardships he must be doing something right.
I firmly believe (and will stand by this) that we as Christians need to be able to specifically identify our enemy. If we are covering ourselves in prayer, seeking God’s will and attempting to further the Kingdom and suddenly find ourselves under attack in some capacity(medically, professionally, socially etc) we need to honestly ask “Why?” Because it is not the world we are really bothering and therefore in opposition with. It’s Satan that we are pissing off (excuse my language.) Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (NIV) I think that in a culture where our Christianity tries to be as politically correct as possible, we skirt the idea of a very real evil enemy that is out to get us. Sorry folks, it’s not a scary campfire tale– it’s real.(Now, please do not use this the next time your boss nails you for missing a deadline because you were lazy and procrastinated….)
1 Peter 5:8, ” Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. “(NIV)
The Bible is full of story after story showing Satan as most assuredly an accuser. Just read Job. This is something the Chinese church understands. When asked why they do not pray that the persecution stop, they quote our Christ and Paul when they talk about trials building perseverance and as an honor bestowed upon the prophets that came before us (Matt. 5:12, Romans 5:3).
It is my hope and prayer that Mr. Lockhart and his church will be “exonerated” and their fate will be similar to the San Diego congregation I linked to before. Their community raised such an outcry that the city essentially dropped the issue. I pray for the same outcome in McDonough. Until it is resolved, I am rejoicing in their tenacity and faith. I will be praying that Jesus will walk step by step with them through this trial. Good job; keep getting on Satan’s nerves.