I just finished reading the book Jesus Freaks. It was a book put out by dc Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs in 1999. Reading though it has been interesting. Interesting in a way where you find reading story after story about people losing their lives for their faith and that causes you to think about things that you don’t typically think about. Some of these stories are from the earliest days of the church and some are as recent as the decade the book was written. The stories of those who were imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for their faith have caused me to dwell on some issues and I figured I would share.
The first of these insights is perhaps the most obvious and that is the fact that we have it so easy here in the democratic west. In some ways this is both a blessing and a curse of sorts. The good is obvious, we don’t have to worry about being arrested, tortured, or even killed for following Christ. There are many places in the world where this is not true. The more subtle curse under this, is that we can become caught up in issues that are not as important because we are given safety and security to worship. There is little cost to the entry into worshiping and the focus gets put on making our church buildings and worship services bend to our comfort and tastes rather than reaching out to a world around us. No doubt our own culture has challenges that are unique to it and comparing it to another culture is in some ways futile. However, I do wonder what would happen if we, including myself, got a little more bold in presenting the Gospel.
The second insight that struck me was that the environments of the people in the book basically fell into four main categories. The first two environments are no longer present in our day and age. The first was the persecutions of the early church. This was basically the persecution from the Roman Empire. The second area of where stories shared a common thread was around the time of the Reformation, where Christians were sadly being put to death by others who claimed to be Christian as well.
The last two environments are still active to this day. The third environment is Christian persecution in predominately Muslim countries. The last of these environments is the persecution of Christians in atheist/Communist countries. For some reason I never really connected that to the persecution of Christians, I’m not sure why as I know that many of China’s Christians are operating in secret. Religion likes to get a lot of the blame for killing one another, too bad that even atheists will kill people in the name of religion.
The third and final insight from the book was how in so many of the stories, people were able to rejoice in their persecution or love those who were imprisoning them, torturing them, or even about to kill them. There are those in this country who are willing to say that you are full of hatred just for disagreeing with their position on certain issues, so the idea of loving someone who is actually causing physical harm be it mistreatment in prison to taking of their very life is a challenging proposition. If I were to be in that situation would I be able to love those who are harming me or my family? Where I am now I don’t think I’m able to answer that question and honestly I hope I never have to be in that situation. However, it does challenge me to love those around me no matter how they may treat or view me. That will be hard enough.
These are just three insights I thought of as I was reading this book. Even though the stories are of people who have suffered or died in the past, these stories and people still have a voice to this very day. It helps to see a larger picture of the history and worldwide status of those who follow Christ. I think this can allow us to break free of making Christianity fit only into our cultural model.