Since I first wrote about this topic last year I haven’t noticed any real changes except for one: the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries is growing.
1. The awareness of most Australian Christians doesn’t seem to have changed very much.
2. The awareness of the Australian media certainly hasn’t improved.
3. Some Churches, to their credit, have taken an interest in the situation through bodies like Barnabas Aid, Voice of the Martyrs and Gospel for Asia.
4. Australia’s politicians, even the Opposition, have not drawn attention to the plight of the persecuted, except perhaps, for Tony Abbott, who made a speech recently which wasn’t widely reported in the media.
5. Some small home Churches and prayer groups are faithfully praying and supporting materially our brethren in other countries.
This week I am challenging the Church and individual Christians to have a look at the plight of our fellow Christians in many parts of the world, and to evaluate whether our own generally comfortable lifestyles are appropriate.
Do You Care?
Jesus said in Matt 25:40 that whatever we do for the least of His brethren we have done it for Him.
He then went on to say ‘If you haven’t helped your brother when he needed it then you have ignored Me'[my paraphrase]. I believe the principle here may condemn many of us at the judgment seat of Christ.
I think Jesus’ teachings all show that if Christians don’t help, or do ignore our needy fellow believers, that we could be finally judged on the basis of not caring for our Saviour at all, despite all our professions of so-called faith. This is a frightening implication.
It truly reflects on us and our Churches today if we are not actively helping the persecuted Church in prayer, deeds and giving.
But I have heard some Christians protest ‘Charity begins at home.’ I guess it does, provided the Christian needy in Australia are in a similar degree of need to those overseas.
Some of those people who say such a thing seem to be some of the least caring and mean people around, who would rather feather their nest in their own homes than provide financially for a displaced Christian family in Syria, for example.
Sorry to be so straight-forward, but this also applies to me too, and if Jesus says this is how we are to be judged – ‘by His words’ – then who am I to disagree or argue the point with Him?
Love One Another
If Australian Christians today cannot see that many of our persecuted brethren are more in need of material help, in terms of food, clothing and housing, let alone in fear of their lives, than are Christians in this country, there is a great need for them to be challenged to open their eyes.
In Australia a relatively poor Christian is in little danger of being killed or injured for his faith. He need not go hungry and he is looked after by Centrelink. A Syrian or Egyptian Christian on the other hand, right at this moment, will probably be living in fear of his/her life, and their family will not be compensated if the breadwinner ‘disappears’ or loses his job. The type of social welfare we enjoy in Australia is virtually non-existent in most third world countries.
I believe Jesus teaches us that our duty to love our fellow Christians does not end at the Church door, but, while it certainly starts there, it must be extended to more of our brothers in this global village.
The love that comes from our faith is completely practical and it involves DOING and giving. Our real faith can only be proven by our works, as Jesus and the New Testament writers affirm.
Barnabas Fund Reports
The Barnabas Fund [http://barnabasfund.org] is one of the best ways to keep yourself abreast of the situation.
The latest report gives the following news:
* Human Rights Watch has called on the Egyptian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for violence in which several Christians were killed, as two more were added to the death toll recently.
* An appeal court in Kazakhstan has overturned a ruling that 121 pieces of Christian literature, including Bibles, that were seized from a street evangelist be destroyed.
* Saeed Abedini, a pastor jailed for eight years in Iran, has been threatened: return to Islam or you will not be released – even after your sentence has been served.
* India: Christian family attacked in their home; mother’s hand severed.
Australians have long regarded themselves as insular and separated from the rest of the world. Christians in particular need to be aware of what is happening to their brethren so they may pray and act appropriately.
The New Missionaries
Old-fashioned missionary activity where a person or a couple were sent out from a western country to darkest Africa or India has become a thing of the past for various reasons.
Today many countries will only accept Christians if they are practical workers who undertake not to try to spread the gospel. This of course is ridiculous because spreading the gospel is what Christians are supposed to do.
One way the situation can be overcome is how ‘Gospel For Asia’ does it. [http://www.gospelforasia.org.au/about.php].
Gospel for Asia trains and sends national workers because they have proven extremely effective. The citizens trust local people better than foreigners and so are more open to the message of salvation than otherwise. We need to support them.