It hit a little too close, news that friends in China have been arrested under the guise of stealing secrets from the Chinese government. Ridiculous! Our friends aren’t interested in Chinese government secrets but they did have a mission
there and they were doing it successfully – helping to build the kingdom of heaven. Last week they were taken into custody and no one knows what will happen next. The government has been cracking down on religious activity.
It hit us close because we know what it is like to live and work in that kind of restrictive environment, to be watched closely and to wonder who is watching you. We have more friends in other countries doing the same kind of work, sharing Jesus with anyone who will listen. I know pastors who run the risk of going to prison for holding a prayer meeting in their home.
Here’s the thing that people in the West sometimes forget – serving Jesus is serious, dangerous business. We often make it sound like becoming a follower of Jesus is the easiest thing going. The bar is often set very low, what Bonhoeffer called ‘cheap grace’. Many people have simply added Jesus to the list of things they include in their life but he has no preeminence, there is no surrender. Salvation a free gift but it was purchased at a high cost. There is no promise that following Jesus is safe.
The news channels this week are full of reminders that following the Christ of the cross can be costly. In many parts of the world the persecution of believers has intensified. It’s always been there but we are hearing more about it. Ancient Christian communities in the Middle East are facing genocide, dynamic groups in South Sudan are fighting for life and freedom, and small groups of evangelical believers in Asia are simply trying to stay below the government radar. Many people will die this year for no other reason than they carry the name of Christ.
Jesus said there would be days like this. He told his disciples upfront; “they hated me and they will hate you. They persecuted me and they will persecute you. A servant is not greater than his master.” (John 15)
The world is not our friend and we should not be surprised when our rights are denied or our lives are in danger. Yet, God is at work. He continues to bring his plans and purposes to fulfillment. We are called to be intercessors and to remember that serving Jesus is serious business.