Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 498 | Wed 17 Apr 2019
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Easter Reflection: A Redemptive Response to Persecution
-- by Elizabeth Kendal
In every war there is a pivotal, decisive battle which, while not ending the war, does determine its outcome. Whilst most people 'on the ground' -- soldiers and civilians -- will have no idea that the strategic dynamic has actually shifted, those in charge know exactly what has happened. Cognisant of the truth and with nothing to lose, the commanders of the losing side will unleash a response that is desperate, ferocious and punitive -- a response aimed largely at maximising their enemy's pain.
In the great cosmic drama of which we are a part, the pivotal, decisive battle was fought and won by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross; his victory evidenced by his resurrection. Despite this, the enemies of Christ resist their end and fight more violently than ever. However, no matter how challenging the Church's present reality might be, the outcome is assured, for 'all the promises of God find their "Yes" in [Christ]' (2 Corinthians 1:20). It is precisely because the promised Saviour/Redeemer fulfilled the task for which he was sent, that God's promise to Abraham -- that through his descendant 'all the families of the earth shall be blessed' (Genesis 12:1-3) -- is coming to pass.
|Church in action: Nepal|
Now it is true that God does intervene with miracles. Indeed, amazing stories are often told of people coming to faith through dreams and visions and miraculous healings and provisions. However, it is mostly the case that God works through his servants and ambassadors, through us, his Church. We are commanded to 'go and make disciples' (Matthew 28:16-20). The lost hear the Gospel of grace and the Church grows as believers obediently 'scatter the seed' (Matthew 13:1-23). The harassed and helpless find abundant and eternal life when the Church reaches out with sacrificial love. Generally, when the Church steps out in obedience and faith, God steps in with amazing grace.
|From Jerusalem to 'the ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8)|
An increasingly global Church. Map shows Percentage Christians
Though the decisive battle was fought and won by Christ on the Cross, the forces of evil continue to fight, resisting their end with 'the energy of despair'. Using every weapon in their arsenal, they fight with desperation and furious hatred. They fight covertly: exploiting weakness and tempting believers into sin, or even just diverting them from their divine calling. The forces of evil also fight overtly: unleashing repression, facilitating crippling discrimination and inciting violent persecution. Persecution is the devil's response to Kingdom growth, not the other way around! Which begs the question: has God provided the Church with a means to respond to persecution, a means that is redemptive, a means that might actually facilitate Kingdom growth, subverting Satan's plot and turning it on its head?
Qaraqosh, Nineveh Plains,
Northern Iraq (Oct 2016)
Now it is true that God does intervene with miracles, and amazing stories emerge daily of miraculous deliverance, provision and intervention. Generally, however, as it is with salvation, so it is with survival -- God mostly chooses to work through us, his Church. The persecuted Church in the Middle East or Africa or Asia, or anywhere you wish to name, will survive and grow as we speak out (Proverbs 31:8,9), as we give generously (James 2:15,16) and as we commit to faithful, intercessory prayer (Ephesians 6:12-18) [see: www.ElizabethKendal.com/Action ].
|Gethsemane: a still from Mel Gibson's |
'The Passion of the Christ'
Merciful Father, we pray for churches that are essentially dead because they have failed to feed on your Word, failed to exercise their faith and failed to pass on the truth to the next generation. May the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead revive your Church.
Compassionate Father, we pray for churches that have retreated behind locked doors and locked lips for fear of persecution. May the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom and guidance (Matthew 10:16-20) give your Church power and courage to act (Acts 2).
Gracious Father, we pray for churches that have neglected or even resisted your command to love the Body of Christ (Galatians 6:2), even when it is poor, needy and despised, bleeding, imprisoned and struggling to survive. May the love of Jesus Christ be shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5) ... that we might be one, that the world might believe (John 17:20-26).
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).