Picture the scene. The first Roman church gathers to read a letter from Pastor Paul. This church, a people who once called the Emperor their ruler, now live under the rule of another, a crucified Jewish prophet who claimed to have defeated death. The way they do life has changed: friends begin to see them as enemies; their discreet gatherings gradually become secret; their hope for a new tomorrow seems somewhat futile under the cruel Emperor Nero, who used Christians as human torches to light his garden parties. It’s into this reality Paul writes these words:
‘…we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’ – Romans 5: 1-4
As Paul’s words were uttered into the ears of the first persecuted church I wonder how they felt hearing ‘glory in our sufferings.’ I honestly cannot begin to imagine.
I wonder sometimes if I, a Christian brought up in a Britain where my right to religious freedom is mostly protected, will ever read the words of Paul and truly understand how the first church received this promise of hope. For them suffering was real and persecution a tangible reality that went hand in hand with choosing to follow Jesus. The concept of a persecution-free life doesn’t seem to be present in their story. Yet the truth is, for those of us who chose to follow Jesus today the story hasn’t changed.
I’ve been sitting on this fact for a while now. Uncomfortable with the noise of persecution and yet the silence of the church. Unable to ignore the insanely unjust realities people have been living, most recently in Syria and Iraq; and the incredibly comfortable place I’ve been reading about it from. It makes sense that in this place of conflicting feelings and aparent powerlessness about whether I am doing enough, that I would be asked to write about how to respond and draw the young people into the discussion and make use of the events and resources of projects like International Day of Prayer (IDOP) to do so.
But if you’ve had enough of reading my brain on paper let me leave you with this thought.
You are powerful, you have a voice, it may be quiet but it’s not alone. You are (most likely) safe and free to follow Jesus if you are reading this blog, so take advantage of that freedom and speak up for our Brothers and Sisters. Don’t feel guilty about how much you do, just do something.
Here are some quality charities and resources to get you started…