Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Time to Take a Stand

You may or may not know that this past Sunday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  Churches all over the world united in prayer for those Christians scattered literally all over the world who face regular persecution as a part of their daily life and faith.  According to this site, there are more than 60 countries in the world with strict religious laws on the books, most of them designed to frustrate Christians.  It's something that we believers in the west are virtually unaware of.  Thank God for religious freedom.  Seriously.  It would be worth your time to Google "Christian Persecution" and just spend some time reading about those who suffer for Christ.

After church this past Sunday, a woman at our church approached me and asked me if I thought that the United States government should come to the aid of persecuted Christians throughout the world.  That question led to others, and we had a brief conversation on the topic.  Since that conversation, I've been thinking more about it and have amended the thoughts that I shared with her (which, to be honest, were rather off the cuff).  So what should governments do to protect or advocate for persecuted Christians across the world?

As I've thought about it, Romans 13 shows that God puts governments in place for essentially two reasons: 1) enforcing the rule of law, and 2) punishing evildoers.  As far as I can tell, this would apply when a nation's citizens (regardless of their faith) are being unjustly persecuted on account of their faith.  The government should enforce the law and punish the evildoers, thereby rescuing those who are persecuted.  The question becomes difficult, however, when we consider that there are Christians who are not, say, Americans who are being persecuted throughout the world.  Should the United States government intervene in those cases?

As of this moment (and I say so, because I could potentially be persuaded otherwise), I would say no, the United States should not seek to punish evildoers outside of its borders or come to the aid of persecuted Christians in other countries (at least in regards to Christian persecution - a just war is a whole other issue).  Rather, I would say that our government should pressure the government of the nation where the offense and persecution is being perpetrated to take action on behalf of those being persecuted.  It's not our job to punish evildoers in other parts of the world.  This is not happening currently in our country, however.  Our government seems oblivious to Christian persecution in other parts of the world - even when it comes to Americans.

So then, as I read the Bible, I think it is our government's job to protect its own citizens, and to advocate and come to the aid of its own citizens (again, regardless of faith, but the vast majority of persecuted religious people in the world are Christians).  It is not our government's job to come to the aid of people persecuted for their religious beliefs in other countries.

That being said, I take the polar opposite position when it comes to the church's role in defending and and advocating for persecuted Christians throughout the world.  The church should must come to the aid of those who are suffering, particularly its sons and daughters.  The church is not bound by geographical or political boundaries, nor is there a biblical restriction placed on it to only protect and support a certain people in a certain place in a certain situation.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  The church is commanded to care for the needy, stand up for the oppressed, fight for justice, and provide aid wherever needed.  Unlike the government, the church is a "universal" entity that exists where there is someone who names the name of Christ.

A good question for churches (including my own church) to ask would be, "What are we doing to stand with our brothers and sisters all over the world who are being persecuted because of their love for my king?"  We (the Western Church) need to start thinking about how we can engage in this war.  What can we do?  We can all certainly pray.  What else?  Could we support an indigenous missionary who ministers to persecuted Christians?  Could we send aid in the form of money or supplies to people who are putting their life on the line when they go to church?  It's time to take a stand.

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