The church unbowed

Just a few weeks ago, we concluded our World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C.

More than 600 Christians from 130 nations gathered together to pray for members of the body of Christ who suffer daily because of their faith and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Their prayers were earnest and powerful, since many are themselves victims of persecution and harassment from government authorities, state institutions and hostile neighbors who hate the Name of Jesus.

The brothers of two of the 21 men beheaded in 2015 by ISIS on a Libyan shore were there, as were several defectors from North Korea and a woman from Eritrea who spent nearly three years in prison—most of that time inside a shipping container. We were honored to have U.S. Vice President Mike Pence address our gathering. He encouraged Christians everywhere to stand boldly against the onslaught of deadly persecution against our fellow believers.

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“You’ve persevered through the crucible of persecution,” the vice president said, speaking directly to the persecuted believers assembled. “You refused to be conformed to this world. You have chosen instead to be counted with those outside the city gate for your faith.”

Pence spoke encouragement from Scripture, while also declaring that the Trump administration will work to take up the cause of persecuted Christians and other oppressed peoples around the world. He told us: “I stand here today as a testament to President Trump’s tangible commitment to reaffirm America’s role as a beacon of hope and light and liberty to inspire the world.”

One of the objectives of this historic Summit was to bring the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide to the attention of U.S. congressional leaders, the administration and the church. With God’s help, we have begun that process through the introduction of resolutions in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Senate Resolution 162, which reaffirms a commitment to international religious freedom, was introduced by Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. House Resolution 319 was introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren of Illinois. Both men spoke with conviction to our audience. It is encouraging that both resolutions have bipartisan co-sponsors. After all, this is one of the most significant human rights issues of our time.

The measure asks the State Department to fill the vacant post for the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. This is a key position for the United States to advocate for fundamental human and religious rights for all people, and I hope that our leaders will act soon on this urgent need.

We cannot stand silently and idly by while our brothers and sisters in Christ endure such horrible suffering. We must speak up for them. We must stand with them, and do everything in our power to help them. The Bible says that when one member of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer (see 1 Corinthians 12:26).

It is true that Christians in every age have been the victims and targets of brutal oppression, but in just the past year, a staggering number of Christians—some 90,000 according to one report—have been killed for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s remember that the evil ideology behind the recent ISIS terror attacks in England that killed dozens is one that despises and abhors “people of the cross” or “crusaders.” They hate the cross. They hate the Name of Jesus. They hate men, women and children who worship the God of the Bible. It is a religious, holy war that they have declared against the West, and particularly those who follow and love the Triune God.

“We cannot stand silently and idly by while our brothers and sisters in Christ endure such horrible suffering. We must speak up for them. We must stand with them, and do everything in our power to help them.”

My good friend Richard Bewes from London, former rector of All Souls Church and a member of the United Kingdom Board of Directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, wrote following the horrific bloodshed of June 3 in the heart of London:

“Recent atrocities have repeatedly been described as ‘senseless,’ but no, they are not senseless. There is a worked-out rationale behind any such group—religious or political. … Christians are frequently on the receiving end of these actions. At times, evil may appear to come at us like a flood. Yet, historically, all these groups must eventually disappear—destined to end up coughing in the exhaust of the ongoing church.

“The conflict between good and evil is about power. We see this in Christ’s wilderness temptations. It is the cross that supremely demonstrates two completely opposite approaches to power. With the devil, it’s grab; with Jesus, it’s grace. With the devil, it’s hate; with Jesus, it’s love. With the devil, it’s the taking of power; with Jesus, it’s the yielding of power and the shedding of blood. It’s the blood of Christ that Satan cannot stand—and it’s this that undermines the powers of darkness.”

Bewes went on to say, “It is as we hold to the message of the cross that we can outface evil—and discover that even former murderers can be redeemed under the beckoning love of Christ.”

Amen! The devil is full of hate, murder and malice, and he wants to take as many people with him as he can to his final abode in hell. He knows his time is short, and his rage grows as the return of the all-conquering Christ nears (see Revelation 12:12).

In the meantime, the church endures persecution and suffering, overcoming the evil one “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives even unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).

I was so encouraged by those who came to our Summit. I heard their personal testimonies of how they continued to boldly confess the Name of Jesus, even as they faced imprisonment and possible death. They love Jesus. They love the Word of God. They are not afraid of what the enemy may do, because they have forsaken all to follow Christ.

I pray that the church in North America will prepare to be so bold as those in power seek to increasingly suppress the truth of the Gospel in our culture. We need not cower or shrink back. We must take our stand on the Word of God, and face the darkness with His love, wisdom and power.

©2017 BGEA The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.