Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Luke 12:1-3
Imagine you live in a small town, and you’re part of a small group from your church. One day you have a mini-retreat in someone’s home. A friend of a friend is in the area and they’ve agreed to come and speak. It’s a happy gathering. You start in the morning with some singing, maybe a little prayer. Then you study a passage from the Bible. You break for lunch and you’re just about to regroup for the afternoon session when 60 police show up at the door. There are several official vehicles parked in front of your house.
The police enter, take cell phones and laptops and cameras and notebooks and Bibles. They ask lots of questions. They march all of you out into the waiting police vans, in full view of everyone on the street who is peering out the window or standing in their doorway.
The police drive you off to the local station. More people see you as you are led out of the police van and into the station. There is a man who has been caught stealing sitting on the floor. He wonders what you’ve done. The police make you wait and wait. They ask you questions. They make you wait some more. It gets late. Midnight. There are some toddlers in your group. You can’t go out to get food and no one is offering you any. You have no idea what the police will do with you. There is no yellow pages with a list of lawyers you can call. No one reads you your rights.
They ask you more questions. “Are you a Christian?” “Who do you know?” “Will you sign this piece of paper acknowledging that you are a Christian?” “Will you sign this piece of paper saying you’re not?”
At 5 AM, the police release you. They don’t drive you home. The van service was only one-way.
What will the neighbors do now?
The bolder ones [there’s always at least one in every neighborhood] asks you what happened.
What do you tell them?
Will they be surprised? “You’re a Christian?”
Will they think to themselves, “Yes, that makes sense. I knew there was something strange about her.”
Will they think, “Hmmm, is that why he is so caring?”
Some may be embarrassed for you and ignore you.
Others may shun you, and stop doing business with you.
One–an old friend–may spit on the ground as you pass.
This story is true. It–and myriad variations of it–has happened countless times in the last twenty years, in dozens of countries around the world. It continues to be true today. Search on Google for “Christians arrested in 2013” and the results are sobering.
It’s not a single region in the world. It’s not believers who were being overly zealous. It’s people like you and me–only when was the last time the police called you in for questioning? Thankfully most of us are able to practice our faith in peace. But that also makes it easy to forget that in many countries following Jesus is dangerous.
This coming Sunday has been designated as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a time to unite in prayer “for the persecuted church in the spirit of oneness.”
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3
It’s a challenge to know how we can best respond to our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted. But praying remains a vital and unrestricted activity for all of us. You’ll find more stories, resources, and encouragement here. “Don’t stand in silence.”
One more question:
If your house was bugged, and your words were broadcast for everyone to hear, what would the neighbors think?
[edited from the archives]