All she did was take a drink of water...
By Rev. Tom Tuura
Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church
We are on a busy fall schedule, and I want to grab a subject that is just around the corner, and discuss it before it is consumed by the busy holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sandwiched in between is of course Reformation and also something called IDOP or International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. We will be hearing much about that in the next year.
Last month we looked at a couple of “hot button” terms which are thrown around quite a bit, they were “evangelical” and “fundamental”. If you missed that article, I'd encourage you to go back and read it or request it. Not on purpose, the subject this month could be another term, “persecution”. Persecution is defined as hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs. Wikipedia.
Persecution is very similar to another hot button term we hear constantly today, discrimination. Both of these are relevant to our society because of their placement in our Constitution, (1st and 14th Amendments). Freedom of religion which is functionally or legally absent in places were persecution is taking place and of course discrimination which continues to universally affected our planet.
At home in the USA, Christian persecution has not been a problem in our nation as a whole since the ratification, legislation and rulings of our government. Certainly there have been cases that have been fought and won, and fought and lost. But even the cases lost such as the notable Supreme Court rulings of the early 60's, ruling that prayer and Bible study were illegal in the public schools though debated and disliked have not resulted in persecution—far from it.
Basically our debates have centered around two clauses in the First Amendment, called the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. Then there's Thomas Jefferson's famous “wall of separation” wording which isn't even in the Constitution.
In fact Christians in the USA have perhaps had the most unprecedented freedoms to worship, work and witness than at any time in the 2000 years of the church. That has not always been the case. We've had freedom of religion fights, which are serious, but very little rises to persecution--yet.
Historically, and in other lands, we know that persecution in a general sense has taken place. Unfortunately it has to be admitted acting in the name of the Church, Church leaders themselves have been guilty of persecution at times. This includes persecuting the Jews. And of course the official state sponsored persecution of all things religious, Christian and otherwise in the name of Communism and Nazism.
Lets narrow this down. Sadly we acknowledge that there is persecution of all sorts all around, even towards other religions. This is very important to understand in this discussion. There is plenty of guilt to go around. However, there is also a persistent theme of denial towards Christian persecution.
Jesus states that the Christian is unique. “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you...If they persecuted me they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18-20)
We need to make very sure that this “hatred” is because of Christ, and not for any other reason. We are hated because we are not part of the world system. We are chosen “out” of the world. Are we truly “out”? Is the world truly out of us?
I was a brand new Christian, probably a freshman in college when I went to a dinner in Duluth Minnesota put on by Open Doors ministry. That was my first presentation on Brother Andrew author of the famous paperback, GOD'S SMUGGLER, and the persecuted church. I was stunned. My church invited the author of TORTURED FOR CHRIST Richard Wurmbrand as a guest speaker, but I was too young to really pay attention.
Both of these presentations impacted our congregation. Certainly myself as I learned about Brother Andrew traveling into Communist Eastern Europe in a VW filled with Bibles.
We have all heard of the violent and bloody persecution stories, but here's a contemporary example of what they go through. This story from an Indian village is reported by several outlets. “According to ucanews.com, the Gond tribal people of Barbattar village include 15 Christian families. Most of the 1,000 villagers practise their ancestral animist faith. However, the leader of the 60-strong Christian population, Mohan Netam, said their neighbours turned on them because "we refused to succumb to the village body's pressure" to abandon the faith. He said their lives have "become miserable" after the village governing body "banned us from collecting firewood or grazing our animals in the forest".
And I'll close with this. “Aasiya Noreen better known as Asia Bibi is a Pakistani woman who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court, receiving a sentence of death by hanging. In June 2009, Noreen was involved in an argument with a group of Muslim women with whom she had been harvesting berries after the other women grew angry with her for drinking the same water as them. She was subsequently accused of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies, and was arrested and imprisoned. In November 2010, a Sheikhupura judge sentenced her to death.” wikipedia
All she did was take a drink of water.
These words are in the brief video trailer put out by Open Doors for this years IDOP observance. “Don't pray for us. Pray with us. If you pray for us, you will pray for the wrong things. You will
pray that the church will be safe. We do not pray for such things. We pray that when persecution comes, when they threaten us, when they kill us that until our last breath, we will cry out Jesus is Lord.”
Its completely understandable that we as American Christians don't want to hear about persecution within the church. But we have to realize that these are our brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom we will share heaven. “Oh how did you die? I died with my Christian friends and family around me. How about you? I was put to death for taking a drink of water.” Keep that in mind.
That’s my view from the Blackberry Patch Pulpit