Hopefully you’re reading this Update in the comfort of your own home, appreciating the relative stability that “home” brings you. Maybe you’re even reading this as part of a devotional time, with a Bible open in front of you (you’ve got tons of decent translations to choose from, so I hope you’ve picked a good one that accurately conveys the original texts). Given how many people read this around the world, you may be part of First Covenant’s church family, or you may be part of your own somewhere far away from Peoria. Or maybe you’re in-between congregations at the moment, asking God to help you find the right “fit” for you.
All of that is well and good, but to many of your brothers and sisters in Christ, everything I’ve just written would sound completely alien. There is no stability in their worlds, and they may not even have access to a Bible (much less to lots of translations of Bibles in their native tongues). They may or may not have a church family of their own -- and even if they did, they may not be able to meet with them, except in secret. Sometimes, they’ve experienced such profound persecution that if they ever find any other Christians, they freely and joyfully embrace them as their family -- whether they seem like a good “fit” or not.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world live under intense, daily persecution for their faith. Tens of thousands are currently in chains in dungeons, or personally brutalized, or dragged from their families into forced slavery by aggressive Christian-haters. Seven to ten are murdered every single day, simply for believing that Jesus loves them -- and for not hiding their faith from those around them. In fact, the number of Christian who died for their faith doubled from 2012 to 2013… and is on the increase again here in 2014.
This Sunday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, but here in the United States, it’s so easy to be a Christian that most of us spend very little of our time actually working on living it out. Where a Syrian Christian in chains may scribble a few precious verses on a hidden piece of paper and savor reading them every day, we can’t seem to find the time to open up any of our multiple family Bibles -- except on Sundays. Where a Nigerian Christian might have the faith to be honest about their faith, knowing that such an admission would lead to their painful death, we often struggle to tell our neighbors anything about our faith at all, since we’re afraid that it might make things awkward.
In our message this week from Galatians, we talked about that we’ve been saved by our faith, and not by our works. But too many of us remain shackled, even here in relative comfort. We’re shackled to feeling like we have to earn God’s love, or we’re shackled to our comfortable status quo (afraid of doing anything that might upset that delicate balance with the lost world around us), or we’re shackled to thinking that what we do doesn’t really matter much at all -- when the truth is that everything we do matters.
So where are you at in all of this? Are you comfortable in your faith, or is it hard? And, if you are comfortable, is that really a good thing?