“They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” John 15:21
In the West we currently enjoy religious freedom, and take for granted the ability to meet with other believers to pray and worship together. This freedom is not enjoyed by many brothers and sisters around the world, such as in China or in the United Arab Emirates. For instance, Christians in North Korea are tortured for their faith. Chinese believers from the house churches were barred from traveling to Lausanne III in 2010, the largest Christian gathering in history. Or in the UAE, Christian expatriates are allowed to worship in their own churches, but legally may not share their faith with locals.
This section of John’s gospel must provide precious sustenance to these believers. They are misunderstood, misaligned, maltreated, and perhaps even tortured or killed because of the name of Jesus. But they can cling to the promise that God’s Holy Spirit is with them, purifying them and speaking through them.
What can we learn from the suffering church? Many things, no doubt, but one that stands out is the strength of their commitment. Can we too live as though our whole lives depend on our belief and trust in God? Do we focus on the essentials of our faith and let the minor concerns drop? Do we believe in the power of God to bring real change and renewal?
May the example of the persecuted church inspire and convict us this day.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you were persecuted, and so are many around the world. Redeem their suffering for your glory.