I’m your average young American. I grew up in a house with four bedrooms and plenty of food to eat every day. I worked hard in high school to get into a good college, and my parents taught me to treat others with kindness and respect. I love going to the movies, coffee is an everyday necessity and I spend way too much time on my phone.
At the same time, I’m not your average American. I’ve loved the Lord since a young age and that has been the determining factor in every decision of my life. I have a deep love for people and strong convictions about what is right and wrong. I went to a Christian school and studied theology, and I want to do overseas missions. My heart has been captivated for the broken and hurting of the world.
I was about eight years old when I first grasped the fact that there were Christians who had something to lose when they said they loved Jesus. I remember having a difficult time understanding this; loving Jesus was celebrated in the environment I grew up in. What did it mean that some children didn’t have shoes or a home and had lost their parents because they were Christians? I clearly remember when an American missionary couple was kidnapped and held for a year in the jungles of the Philippines; my family and I prayed every day for a year for their release. Even at a young age, these stories marked me. My parents choose to share what was going on in the nations with me at a young age, and as a result: I have a heart of compassion for the world.
When we hear stories of believers being persecuted overseas, western Christians typically have two types of responses: fear and guilt. We ask ourselves, “What if this comes to us?” In guilt, we wonder, “Why am I blessed with such a comfortable life while my brothers and sisters suffer?” Although both reactions are natural, neither response moves us to action. So what should be our response?
My answer is simple: prayer and obedience. Prayer is to be our natural response to both the horrors of our world and the blessings we receive in the midst of it. Suffering believers covet the prayers of the body of Christ, for prayer is the most powerful tool we possess. If we cannot lift up our brothers and sisters in prayer, are we truly part of the same body?
The second part of our response should be obedience to the Lord about how to best serve our persecuted family. We should strive for faithfulness, even if our response seems ineffective. If we are answering the Lord’s call to faithfulness, then the rest doesn’t matter. It is the Lord’s job to bring justice, to bring in the harvest and to reward the righteous. He simply asks that we be faithful sowers. God is concerned with the condition of our hearts towards our brothers and sisters, for hearts that are tender are hearts that can be broken for what breaks God’s heart.
I encourage you today to think about this answer of prayer and obedience. Although a simple answer, it is not simple to do. Yet aren’t we promised that when we are weak, He is strong? Let your faith be encouraged by our dear brothers and sisters who fight hard battles every day and let yourself be moved from compassion to action.
R J Everett works for The Voice of the Martyrs USA