The Bible contains stories of people who lived their lives for the glory of God and the outcome was that they were murdered for the cause of the Gospel. Church history is also full of people whose lives were cut short because they chose to keep Christ at the center and they believed in the story of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. These stories include people like Polycarp, Ignatius, John Huss, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Living in America, we tend to feel pretty much removed from the times when people died for their faith. Just this week two men were martyred for their faith in Jesus in Pakistan. A Pakistani pastor, Rashid Emmanuel and his brother were gunned down in Faisalabad, Pakistan, after being exonerated from false accusations of blasphemy against prophet Muhammad.
Second century church father Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” We need to be reminded of several things as followers of Jesus when we hear these stories.
- While we do not personally experience this kind of persecution here, we need our hearts sensitized to the reality that this is the experience of Christians around the globe. These people are our brothers and sisters, and our hearts should break when family suffer.
- Persecution is to be expected in the Christian experience (see Matthew 5:10-12, Luke 21:12, John 15:20, 2 Timothy 3:12). While the death of a Christian at the hands of evildoers is tragic, it is also victorious!
- We must pray for the persecuted church. Use stories like this to pray for people who are enduring hardship and persecution because of their faith. A good source of information on the persecuted church is an organization called The Voice of the Martyrs.