Monday, March 03, 2008

The Other Side of Persecution

So often the only testimonies that organizations like The Voice of the Martyrs publicize are the ones were Christians willingly endure torture, imprisonment and even death rather than deny Christ.  But what about those who fail in the face of persecution? What about those who do deny?

I was reminded of this today as I read a story out of Himachal Pradesh, India where a pastor and his wife were pressured to reconvert to Hinduism from Christianity.  Offered at first a bribe to give up his faith, he refused.  When threatened with arrest and possible death, however, he reluctantly underwent a Hindu reconversion ceremony. 

Now, according to the Christian Legal Association, he deeply regrets his decision.  "It is better for me to die then to leave Jesus but I was under so much pressure (from the local villagers)," he told them.  He now intends to return to his village where he is will again preach Christ.

How to deal with those who deny their faith in the face of persecution was one of the hardest issues that early Christians had to face.  It is one that we don't like to talk about either, if reporting on persecution is any indication; this is one side of persecution we would rather sweep under the rug.  We like the stories of victory and courage; not failure and fear.  This emphasis, however, has left us with a truncated view of the persecuted.  I have had to convince some that the persecuted church really needs teaching on what the Bible teaches about persecution as they reason, based on all of the success stories, that persecuted Christians obviously know how to stand faithfully without the biblical admonitions.  If such were the case, then there would have been little reason for the New Testament writers to have written most of what they wrote.   

I, for one, certainly would not want to minimize the importance of steadfastness in the face of trials and tribulations.  The Bible speaks to this in no uncertain terms and promises all the grace necessary to stand faithfully.  But the Scriptures also offer hope for those who fail to stand firm.  The gospel of Mark, in particular, speaks into such situations.  If we fail to mention this, we do not teach the entire council of God who not only offers a strong arm in times of weakness but open arms in times of failure.   


Anonymous said...

I have had the opportunity several times to visit with the wives and families of the 80 (35+/- evangelical) Tzotzil Indians accused of and sentenced for the Massacre in Acteal, Chiapas,Mexico 10 years ago.I don't know how the men in prison are doing at first hand, but it is so sad to see their disheartened and burdened wives leaving the gospel and returning to the old ways...16 more years at least waiting for their husbands to be released if there is no legal "miracle"'s the hopeless story reported by the press every year or so with no practical way of ministering to these women yet arrived at. Please pray for them and their children that they will find their way back to faith and trust in the Lord, and a legal resolution for those imprisoned unjustly.

Matthew said...

Another sad "other side" of persecution is Christians who respond to persecution with violence. As unpleasant as these stories are, I think they ought to be a little more well-publicized so (a) we in the West don't get too much of an inaccurate or romanticized view of our brothers and sisters who are struggling and (b) we know better how to pray.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add this on to my comments about Acteal just to make clear to those who don't know much about the massacre in 1997, that it is generally accepted that most of the 80 Tzotzil Indians detained and processed are innocent. They are considered "political" prisoners because they were utilized as scape goats to divert attention from both the government involvement and Zapatistas , plus a local dispute for land among families. There has been a lawsuit filed on their behalf in the international court in Costa Rica against the Mexican governernment
and there is new evidence being presented on their behalf. It will take a miracle for anything to be done...the Zapatista groups use Acteal as propaganda to raise millions of dollars for their cause each year...and the government dooesn't want a confrontaion with them. The evangelicals are the weakest, the most defenceless...throwaways. Just so there'as no confusing them with other cases of vilonce committed by Christians evangelicals...of which there are some cases in Mexico.