Christians have always been persecuted…it is part of our call. (Acts 14:22) The call to plant churches and reach the unreached, will cost us. It will cost our time, our resources, and possibly even our life. We easily forget that all but one (St. John and excluding Judas) of the original Apostles were brutally martyred for the sharing of the Gospel. Their blood and lives were offered on the altar of God’s grace toward mankind. They did not die in vain.
In our day of “at ease in Zion” religianity (my word), we know little of sacrifice, death or persecution. However, this is not the case in other countries and it will eventually find its way into the U.S. in the not too distant future. Church Planters in foreign lands and with limited resources are laying their life on the altar of sacrifice for the gospel’s sake.
In the midst of persecution the Lord is offering us the opportunity to demonstrate the power of grace and forgiveness. Instead of retaliation, it is an open window to be an example of truth and grace. Yes, let us stand for the equal rights of all men. However, if we proclaim the name of Christ let us never fail to offer forgiveness and mercy.
The early church saw persecution as a norm for proclaiming the gospel…they expected it. (1Thes. 3:3-4) Paul viewed it as a ministry opportunity to proclaim Jesus and advance the message among another class of people. (Phil. 1:12-13 – Kings, Governors, soldiers, etc.) After all, Paul knew from his initial calling into ministry that his life was destined for persecution. (Acts 9:15-16) When we adopt their attitude by surrendering to God’s highest purposes we will realize that rejection and persecution is a biblical norm. Then we will also discover the power of communication it offers to us.
I began a ministry to reach some of the unreached villages of India. Through PROJECT INDIA we have 42 churches, 19 planted since December of 2011, and several more in the beginning stages. With over 800 new believers from atheist and idolatrous backgrounds in the first couple of months, we knew it was only a matter of time before persecution would begin, especially as we started having evangelistic success among the higher caste of Hindu culture.
After a night time outreach meeting, one of our church planters, his wife, daughter and mother were returning to their home when they were attacked by men from the darkness. (The photo at the top of this article is our Church Planter with his wife and daughter.) All four were taken to the hospital and remained there for several days as they recovered from the injuries. However, his mother, who was 75 years old, was paralyzed as her back was broken from the beatings. She had jumped between the attackers and her son and cried out, “Do not hurt my son, hit me!” They did, and she was left unable to walk.
The main culprit was caught and brought before the village council. He was publicly reprimanded and scorned. This village had never heard the gospel and our church of 43 was the only Christian presence there. The council came together to decide whether or not we could continue to hold church meetings among their village. As the man responsible stood before the council, he addressed our church planter. He said, “I am sorry for the harm I’ve caused your family. I have been unable to sleep for thinking of the harm I have caused. I ask you to please forgive me.” Ram, our church planter, only a couple days out of the hospital replied, “I forgive you, in Jesus name.”
This act of forgiveness turned the tide in this village. The village council unanimously accepted our church planting work and offered to protect the believers who gathered and the family of our church planter. The Lord had taken what Satan meant for bad and turned it around for good. (Neh. 13:2) Why? Because of the power of forgiveness!
Ram distributed clothes to some of the poor ladies in the village two weeks after this, demonstrating a love for the people on the physical level. God is opening the villagers hearts to the gospel in a whole new way. Sometimes, persecution is the doorway God uses to unlock new places of outreach.
Ram’s mother remained in the hospital for 3 weeks. Though paralyzed, she came back to the village where she was attacked and said, “I can still pray for the Lord to reach the people.” She refused to leave and abandon the church and the work. She was a living example of the sacrifice and love Jesus pours into those who surrender all.
This past Monday, she died from the complications of her injury. (I’m weeping while typing this.) Her life was taken by the brutal persecution she endured. However, her prayers live on…melting away the hostility of those who reject the gospel and bearing forth fruit from among those whom she loved and refused to leave. She is buried in the same village where she was brutally attacked. Her son, Ram, is taking it very hard. His calling has cost him the life of his mother. Please remember him in your prayers.
Next week, via skype, I will preach at her memorial service. Her life not only opened doors into the various social castes of this rural village, but it also opened up conviction and grace in my heart. But then again, that is what the power of forgiveness does!
I need your prayers as I speak at her memorial…I am unworthy to speak of such sacrifice.
Please feel free to leave a comment of encouragement to Ram and his family as they will read this!