By Laurel Kehl
200 million. That’s the number of believers presently facing persecution. 60% of those are children.
There are stories coming out of Iraq of children who are refusing to give up their faith in Jesus when asked to do so by their ISIS captors. When they refuse…they are killed in front of their parents’ eyes.
As I read the reports, through my tears I remembered another time, another place, and some other children. It was 1989 in Romania, one of the most brutal Communist regimes in the Soviet block. For many years, there had been a systematic persecution of Christians. However, the persecution had only served to strengthen the faith of the suffering. That December, there were many throughout the country peacefully protesting the government’s repressive powers. In the village of Timisoara, children with candles were among those surrounding their church to protect it and their outspoken pastor. That night, they were mercilessly gunned down by security forces. As horrible as that was, it turned the tide. The last Communist government toppled!
I’m sure Jesus stood at the right hand of God to welcome those little ones (both Romanian and Iraqi) into His heaven, just as He will for us, who trust in His atoning death. Until He does, I want to believe that He is using the faces of those children to haunt their killers until every barrier in THEIR hearts against a loving, sovereign, heavenly Father is broken down and they see their need for His mercy and grace. After all, the martyrdom of Stephen was a great tragedy for the early Church, but God used it to turn the Persecutor Saul into the Apostle Paul! How could God not be doing something similar today?!
Someday there WILL be perfect justice in a perfect world. Frankly, I can’t wait! But for now we wait. And while we wait, I think God would have us weep for all the losses we and our brothers and sisters experience in a broken world. We have some people in our midst who have experienced firsthand persecution for their faith. They need our love and comfort.
We will be observing Persecuted Church Sunday on October 26th. As we gather in the auditorium, you will notice a memorial table commemorating those who have lost their lives for following Jesus. We will be remembering the martyrs and praying…for the persecuted…but also for the persecutors.