When you think of persecuted Christians, does your mind go to countries across the ocean? It’s a natural reaction, and on most days, mine does as well. Today, however, persecution is in our backyard, not only because it was the topic of today’s sermon at my church, but a conversation I had afterwards with a brother in Christ.
I thought the Lord had already asked enough of him. After all, his father has threatened to disown him if he does not recant his new faith by December. His family has cut him off, and yet he carries on. He’s known Jesus as Savior for just over a year, and yet he still smiles as we talk about his troubles.
I was asking him about work. I knew he was looking for a new job, and I asked him why things were so bad in his current place of employment. He explained to me that there are a lot of Orthodox Christians that work with him. He told me he talks to them about Jesus. He says their lives don’t reflect a real relationship with Christ, and they don’t like that he is a “born again” Christian or evangelical believer.
Then he told me, “They told me it would be better that I stayed a Muslim rather than be an evangelical Christian.”
I’m sure the shock on my face was evident. He just smiled and said, “I’m so glad I came to this church when I was seeking Jesus and not theirs.” I affirmed him in that statement and said, I was so glad he did too.
Yet, as I drove home, I was truly grieved in my heart, but reminded of others from days gone by, who could not let go of traditions for the sake of freedom in Christ Jesus. Those of the “circumcision group” in the days of Paul, allowed the law to be lord over Christ.
Does this mean there are no believers in the Orthodox Church today? No, I have met many who have given their lives to Jesus Christ and yet, remain in the church to be a witness to others. I’ve known priests who are strong witnesses for the gospel of Christ. Yet, I cannot help but believe that God is grieved by the hindrance of such teaching to the spread of the gospel. If my dear brother were not firm in his faith, what could such an attack do to his walk with Jesus?
I have been reading Eric Metaxas’ book on Martin Luther, and I can’t help but see the correlation. It also gives me pause to examine my own faith, my own words to a person who is seeking Christ or new in the faith. Lord have mercy, if I would ever wish someone would return to the darkness rather than follow Christ, because they went to a different church or joined a different denomination.
The attacks from outside are expected; the attacks from inside grievous.
While our sermon today reminded us that Satan is always on the attack to make us doubt our faith or fall, few of you reading this blog will know the cost in following Christ paid by those like my dear brother. So, I ask that you thank the Lord for your salvation and freedom in Christ while coveting to pray for him and thousands more like him, who daily take up their cross to follow the Lover of their soul.
And while you’re praying, pray for revival to come to the Orthodox Church, that the bonds of tradition will be broken and true freedom through salvation by grace alone in Christ alone might be proclaimed.
Grace and Peace