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ROMANIA: Extreme Truth

ROMANIA: Extreme Truth

“Are you not afraid of what we will do to you?” the Communist colonel asked, his tone a combination of mockery and challenge.

Young Pastor Kochanga, having preached only one sermon in his career, stood before the colonel, knowing that the man held the power of life or death over him. He answered in a respectful, yet fervent tone.

“Sir, truth is never afraid. Suppose your government would decide to hang all mathematicians. How much would two plus two be then? Two plus two would still be four.

“We have truth, as true as a mathematical equation. We have the truth that there is a God, and he is our loving Father. We have the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world and wishes to save everyone, even you. We have truth that there is a Holy Spirit who empowers men and gives them light, and we have the truth that there exists a beautiful paradise.

“Whatever whips and whatever instruments of torture you have, it will always remain so. Two plus two still equals four.”
Kochanga was beaten almost beyond recognition and then was never seen again. Though his battered and bloody face was hard to recognize for the other prisoners, in heaven he was immediately known and welcomed.

“Tell the truth.” Children learn this command at an early age, yet its wisdom is timeless. If we will return to simply acknowledging what we know to be true, we will always have the words to say when we are called upon to testify for Christ. Many people often feel unqualified to witness for Christ, saying they lack “training.” We fear being asked a theological question we don’t know how to answer. However, professing Christ doesn’t require course credit in apologetics. Simply tell the truth about what you know—just as those who have experienced religious oppression. Testifying about Christ is easier than it seems. We must go back to the principle we learned in childhood. We are commanded to acknowledge Jesus Christ—to tell the truth.

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ROMANIA: Extreme Injustice

ROMANIA: Extreme Injustice

Pastor Florescu couldn’t bear to watch his son being beaten by the Communist officers. He had already been beaten himself, and he had not slept for two weeks for fear of being attacked by the starving rats the Communists had forced into his prison cell. The Romanian police wanted Florescu to give up other members of his underground church so that they, too, could be captured.

Seeing that the beatings and torture weren’t working, the Communists brought in Florescu’s son Alexander, only fourteen years old, and began to beat the boy. While Florescu watched, they hammered his son’s body unmercifully, telling the pastor that they would beat his son to death unless he told them the locations of other believers.

Finally, half mad, Florescu screamed for them to stop.

“Alexander, I must say what they want!” he called out to his son. “I can’t bear your beatings anymore.”

His body bruised, blood running from his nose and mouth, Alexander looked his father in the eye. “Father, don’t do me the injustice of having a traitor as a parent. Stand strong! If they kill me, I will die with the word ‘Jesus’ on my lips.”

The boy’s courage enraged the Communist guards, and they beat him to death as his father watched. Not only did he hold on to his faith, he helped his father do the same.

Is there no justice in this world? When we read of the horrible atrocities committed against the innocent, we can’t help but wonder. We may falter in our faith when we hear about cruel suffering at the hands of evildoers. We may become discouraged when we long for the salve of mercy that seems to tarry. Is there no justice in this world? In answer to our cry, the Bible teaches the principle of “yes and not yet.” Yes, some evildoers meet with swift justice here and now. However, God’s mighty hand of infinite justice has yet to fall on this earth. That is saved for the end of time. We grow weary waiting, but he is undeterred.

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ROMANIA: Extreme Proclamation

ROMANIA: Extreme Proclamation

Sabina Wurmbrand reached over and pinched her husband’s arm. “Richard,” she said fiercely, “stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ. They are spitting on his face!”

“If I do so,” Richard Wurmbrand answered, looking intently at his wife, “you will lose your husband.”

Her eyes bore into his. “I don’t want a coward for a husband.”

They sat in a Romanian national congress on religion shortly after Communist soldiers had stormed their country. The assembled Christian pastors, priests, and ministers of all denominations stood, one by one, and spouted praise to Joseph Stalin and to the new Communist leader-ship, who had put thousands of Christians in prison.

As Richard stood to speak, many were thrilled to see that this well-known pastor would join their cause. But instead of praising the Communists, he praised Jesus Christ as the only path to salvation.

“Our first loyalty,” he told the gathering, “should be to God, not to Communist leaders.” The gathering was broadcast live across Romania, and thousands across the country heard Richard’s challenge.

Realizing the damage Richard was doing, Communist officials rushed the stage. Richard escaped out the back door but was a hunted man from then on. He would later spend fourteen years in prison.

Most of us will probably never be challenged to make our stand for Christ in front of an entire nation. But we are all called to make a stand for him wherever we are each day. It is not the size of the witnessing audience but the sincerity of our stand that matters. Our lives may not depend on what we say. But our jobs may depend on our decision to voice our convictions. It may mean losing a relationship. It may even mean estrangement from our families. In any case, it is far better to endure the consequences of our convictions than to regret their noticeable absence. When and where will you seize the opportunity to take a stand for Christ today?

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ROMANIA: Extreme Courage

ROMANIA: Extreme Courage

It was almost midnight as the women prisoners heard the Communist guards arrive. They quickly gathered around the condemned, a young woman of twenty who had been sentenced to die for her faith in Christ. They whispered hurried good-byes. There were no tears from the young Romanian woman, no screams for mercy.

Earlier that evening, the prisoners had listened to the young woman, her face glowing with love. “For me, this grave is the doorway to a heav-enly city,” she had told them. “Who can tell the beauty of that city? There, sadness is not known. There is only joy and song. Everyone is dressed in the white of purity. We can see God face-to-face. There are such joys that human language cannot express. Why should I weep? Why should I be sad?”

She was engaged to be married, but this night, she told them, instead of being with her earthly fiancé, she would meet her heavenly bride-groom.

The pitiless guards entered the cell, and the woman stepped toward them, ready to go. As she left the cell, surrounded by guards, she began to recite the Apostles’ Creed. Minutes later, with tears streaming down their faces, the remaining prisoners heard shots. The executioners thought they had ended the young woman’s life, but they had only sent her to live forever in a much better place.

Courage is the bridge that carries us from a nominal existence on earth to an inexplicable longing for a heavenly future. Those who fully understand the certainty of heaven’s existence find it easier to exchange their comparably paltry lives on earth for eternal citizenship in heaven. Courage helps us to let go of all we cling to on earth—all the things that make us long to stay here. It takes courage to believe in a life after death. After all, life on earth is all we really know until the moment we die. We are courageous when we launch out in faith, believing Christ has made it possible for us to cross into eternity with him. Once we have made that firm decision, we can face life with purpose and death with courage.

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ROMANIA: Extreme Opposition

ROMANIA: Extreme Opposition

I admire Communists.” The words seemed strange from a pastor who spent fourteen years in Communist prisons, but Richard Wurmbrand was sincere when he said them.

“Many Communists were willing to die to defend their ‘Utopia.’ They were more committed to their cause than some I met in churches.”

In every enemy Pastor Wurmbrand saw a potential friend and a potential Christian. By loving his opponents, he not only saw many come to know Christ but also increased his opportunities to witness.

“When they called me a ‘dirty Jew’ and told everyone not to read my books, people immediately went out to see what this ‘dirty Jew’ had to say,” he chuckled. “I welcome anyone who has offense against me. Others are not always interested in what you have to say. You need to challenge them to the truth before you share your beliefs. To do this you must understand where they are coming from and be able to speak intelligently. But we must also remember to always speak in love.”

Pastor Wurmbrand’s words were not some high-minded ideal that he didn’t exemplify. He and his wife Sabina welcomed into their home a Nazi officer who worked at the very concentration camp where all of Sabina’s family had been exterminated. When the officer saw their forgiveness and love for him, he was won into the kingdom.

Note: These statements were made during one of Pastor Wurmbrand’s final interviews prior to his death in February, 2001.

Jesus taught us that others would recognize our faith by our love—especially when it comes to dealing with the opposition. How we treat our enemies is equally important as how we treat those in our own Christian family. In fact, our response to criticism often makes a greater statement for Christianity than any other example. When believers put this powerful principle of the Christian faith into practice, they distinguish themselves from the rest of the world. The natural response to opposition is to refute it or return the favor. Instead, believers strive to understand their enemies, not under-mine them. Opposition, when put into this perspective, is welcomed as an opportunity to exercise faith and imitate Christ’s commands.

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