Holy Week and Easter often lead us to focus more deeply on our faith, the awesome sacrifice Jesus made for us, and the world-changing event of the Resurrection. Our focus is so intense that we may not watch what is going on in the world around us. As we, in the United States, freely attended our churches to hear, once again, of the forgiveness of sins Jesus paid for by his sacrifice on the cross, and of the glorious news of the physically risen Christ on Easter, other Christians in our world suffered greatly.
In Pakistan, at least 70 are dead at the time of this writing. They were killed in a bombing specifically targeting Christians who were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter. The fate of a Catholic priest kidnapped from an old people’s home in Yemen is not yet clear, though some are reporting that the threat to crucify him for his faith was carried out on Good Friday. These two stories have been in the news. But millions more suffer in silence, with their stories untold by the world press.
Some Christians languish in prisons and work camps because they defied their government’s ban on worshipping or of simply owning a Bible. Some suffer daily abuses because they live in countries with a majority of people who are hostile to the Christian faith. Many millions more live in constant fear from their governments, from their neighbors and even from their own families. Jesus warns that following Him would not always be easy. He speaks of the persecution of those who follow Him quite often in the Gospels. But He reminds us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
When I consider all those who live in fear because of their faith, the words of a familiar hymn often come to mind: “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace…” (My Hope is Built, ELH 197:2) Though God’s will may be hidden to all, our trust remains in Christ.
While the sacrifice of our Savior and of His resurrection from the dead are still fresh in our minds, let us remember all those suffering for the sake of the Christian faith. Join us in praying, “Gracious Heavenly Father, I come before you with awe and thankfulness for the great love You showed to me in sending Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be my Savior. I ask You to be with all those who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus as their only Savior from sin and death. Give them strength to deal with their trials even as their steadfast confession of the faith stands as an example to all. I pray also for their persecutors, that they may hear the truth of Your Word and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, have their hearts changed from unbelief and hatred to faith and trust in You. Grant to all who are suffering for Jesus’ sake, the peace of Christ, which passes all understanding. In the name of my Risen and Living Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
Rev. Paul Fries