I read an article the other day about Christian persecution in the Middle East. The stories presented were rather horrific. I’m not going to describe the stomach-wrenching horror I read, just know that if I didn’t know better, and the language was slightly less-modern, I would have guessed that what was being described was in pre-Constantine Rome, when Christians were fed to lions or crucified, or used as human lanterns in gardens. Now, I don’t know how trustworthy the site was, and it could be that everything was greatly exaggerated. Or it could be absolutely, God’s-honest truth. Human cruelty never fails to surprise me; I would rather believe that people are really good at heart, or that only the incredibly sick and twisted do awful things. But that’s not really true. We’re all capable of atrocities; we just don’t want to recognize that fact (and we don’t have to face it in our comfy Western world, because it’s easy to keep the awfulness in our souls hidden here ). But whether nor not this particular article was telling the whole, unbiased, untainted truth about the persecution of Christians is not really the point.
The point is not even that it could be. But the point is somewhere along the lines of if it IS true, and if Christians in places throughout the world are being brutalized (which we know they are), than where does that leave me? I have a pretty comfy, not-at-all-physically-persecuted life. In fact, I would call my life cushy.
So what if? What if our places were reversed, and suddenly I lived in a place that mocked and despised my faith? What if someone held a gun to my head and asked me to renounce my faith in Jesus, or die, would I do it? I like to think that I would stick to my faith, that I would have that kind of courage. And, honestly, I’d take a gun to my head any day over most of the brutality I read about. A bullet to the head is usually pretty short and quick. But some of what I read left Christians suffering for a long, long time. So, what about then? Would I be tortured for my faith? I hope so. I hope I wouldn’t rationalize myself out of it. But I don’t know. I’m not sure I ever will know, until faced with it. It is a good reason to know why I believe what I believe…and to realize that in a moment like that, rational, scientific arguments aren’t going to do anything to convince me. It’ll be my life experiences and the stories I’ve heard that might help me look my persecutor in the eyes and say, “I can’t. My God has done too much for me. I believe in Him, you can’t change that. Do what you want with this body.”
And so, the point – I think really, the biggest question for me, right now, in my cushy life, is when was the last time I prayed for my Christian brothers and sisters who are being tortured for their faith? Or for the girls who were recently kidnapped? Or for any of the sex trafficking victims? When was the last time I prayed for something that wasn’t related to myself, my friends, or even someone I knew? When was the last time I took the time to even allow the knowledge of the suffering of others to soak into my understanding a little bit? When was the last time I let that knowledge impact my self-focused, first-world-problemed life? To my shame, I can’t remember.
I have been so wrapped up in my cushy-comfy life, that I forget about the world of pain and discomfort and want out there. And I forget to pray for my brothers and sisters whose trials are far worse than anything I can imagine. I forgot to pray for my fellow humans who need Jesus, who survive on less than a bowl of rice a day, or who don’t have water to drink.
I am so comfortable I forget. And really, it’s not really a subject I like to think about, you know? It’s uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. But it is something I should be doing. It is a place of discomfort and pain that I NEED to enter into. It is the very least I can do for my brothers and sisters, for my fellow humans. I might never be given the privilege to share in their suffering, but I can pray for them in theirs.