One of the things we do each week in worship is to pray for Christians in other parts of the world, Christians who are living in places where sometimes just to say aloud that you believe in Jesus is to put your life at risk. To live in those kinds of conditions seems to be so distant from our experience here in the United States, where to openly be a Christian can be to invite a variety of responses but never with the same kinds of risks faced in so many places in the world.
Each week in worship we pray for believers in a different country in the world. I select the country based on a prayer calendar from Frontline Missions. Tomorrow we will pray for Christians in Tajikistan. We pray for their safety, for their faithfulness, and that they would know the closeness with which God always holds them. I encourage the congregation to remembers these Christians in their prayers during the week.
Earlier this week I read an article about persecution in northern India. It is a story not only about what may be considered outbreaks of persecution of Christians, but also about the way in which India as a nation may be drifting towards becoming a place where to claim any religious identity except Hindu is to be anti-Indian, and consequently to be an acceptable target for removal from society.
And yet, believers living in these circumstances know without any doubts that God holds them in all things. A woman who was attacked by a mob and whose home was destroyed said this:
“Even if I am beaten, it is all joy. Those of us who were beaten are the privileged ones. So we live for Christ, and when we die, we die for Christ. We have completely given our lives into the hand of Jesus.”
Last week I began preaching from Paul's letter to the church at Colossae, a church he had heard about but never visited himself. In the second verse of the letter he says this:
"To the saints and faithful brothers [and sisters] in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father."
Paul writes to a people known to him only by faith, and yet they are his dear sisters and brothers in Christ, and he joyfully lifts them to God.
May we remember that we are not just God's people gathered in Dulce, or in Rochester, or wherever you may happen to be, but that in Christ we are a part God's people that are found scattered throughout the world.
May we lift up in prayer our sisters and brothers in Christ throughout the world, particularly sisters and brothers in far-flung places, in hard and even dangerous circumstances, that they may continue to know God's grace and peace in every moment of their lives.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.