Unbeknownst to many of us, comfortable in our American luxury, there exists a horror of nightmare proportions in the Christian realm. Across the globe, about 160,000 people will die horrific deaths each year. While we complain about the price of gasoline, our taxes and prices of food increasing, while we sit down together as families over meals, drive through fast food restaurants on the way to the weekend soccer practice, and nosh on hot dogs and soft drinks at the baseball game, men and women endure unimaginable hardships for the name of Christ. I’ve recently been reading a book written by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who spent 14 years in a Romanian prison for preaching the Truth. At this moment, in other countries around the world, wrists are shackled, feet crippled, stomachs deprived, backs and legs flogged, and men and women are brutalized, all because of professing their faith in Christ.
Consider the prisoner standing in the “nail box,” a tortuous vertical coffin where victims stand for days until dehydration, hunger and sleep deprivation cause them to sway, only to be abruptly slashed by the sharp nails lining the box. Think also of the razor-lined shackles holding the wrists of those who dared to speak the truth about their belief in Christ – and were caught. As long as they don’t move, the shackles do not hurt, but heaven forbid they fall asleep, or sneeze, lest their wrists be shredded and they bleed to death.
As I think of the emotional and physical hardships I’ve endured in my life, they all pale in comparison to what these people go through each day. Our God sustains them in ways incomprehensible to the average Western Christian. While we fret about paying our bills each month, many of these Christians don’ t even own homes, as they know they’ll lose them because of their faith.
What’s perhaps most remarkable is the attitude toward their captors that most of the martyrs hold. For those that cling to their faith, refusing to deny Christ, they actually love the people who hold them captive. They pray for those that brutalize them, truly demonstrating Christ’s love of the sinner, whilst hating the sin. From what I’ve read in Pastor Wurmbrand’s book, “Tortured for Christ,” these Christians are blessed with an indwelling of the Spirit that quite nearly literally burns inside them. Whether or not they’ve been given a special portion of His Spirit because of their suffering, their treatment of those who brutalize them is a perfect reflection of God’s love for all of us.
All that to say, lately, because of Pastor Wurmbrand and his colleagues’ suffering, my perspectives adjust to a new angle on things. I have found myself longing for the indwelling of the Spirit such that I could withstand such atrocities as these heroes of the faith do. There’s nothing masochistic in that statement – just a desire for that depth of connection with the Spirit. I’m not a stranger to physical or emotional pain and suffering, but even with my limited experiences, I still prefer pain free living. As it stands now, I think I am one of those whom Jesus called, “lukewarm.”
The other dots I’ve connected have to do with their love for their abusers. Who am I to become irritated with anyone for any reason? How easy it should be for me to love those whom I perceive have inflicted harm or wrongs upon me if I will just consider the love of Christ shining through these martyrs for those who inflict such pain on them. Who am I to be frustrated over simple and common in-considerations which occur as a result of living in the same house with another sinner, just like me? What would really be different in my life if I loved everyone as the Father loves us?
The bottom line is simply this: if we love our God with all our heart, our soul, our mind, we will then have a greater capacity to love our spouse (our closest neighbor) with the passion of Christ.
That then, is the foundation for a marriage that glorifies God. We need to pray for it, and not just be receptive to it, but ache to literally be Christ to others. That’s what it means to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit.
Love to you,