During the time of the Apostle Paul, many worldly philosophies and traditions of men had crept into the church. Many of his epistles were written to churches to combat these false teachings with the truth of God’s Word. There is a philosophy just as dangerous and heretical that has crept into our churches today. It is called “The American Dream.” Practically speaking, the American dream is the belief that we not only have the right to but we deserve a nice home filled with nice things, a good stable job with a generous income, yearly family vacations to Disney World, new cars, a retirement plan, etc. As Americans, we believe that our Constitution grants us all of these things. However, as Christians, we need to realize that our citizenship is not of this world (Philippians 3:20). As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home; I’m just a passin’ through!” The American Dream has no biblical foundation and is fundamentally opposed to the great commission. It has made us complacent regarding eternal matters and oblivious to the needs of the body of Christ as a whole.
In 2011, these are some things that happened to Christians around the world:
– 300 were martyred in Nigeria.
– 50,000 to 70,000 were held in horrific prison camps in North Korea.
– Many of the 80 million Christians in China were denied the right to worship and their pastors were arrested and put in prison.
– And in January of 2012 in Uganda, the father of a 15 year old girl locked her in a closet for six months because she converted from Islam to Christianity. She lost the use of her legs but is slowly regaining strength and the ability to walk.
In their book The Privilege of Persecution, Dr. Carl Moeller and David Hegg explain the dichotomy of reality between American Christians and those Christians suffering for their faith. Our ways of thinking are so radically different that it is difficult for us to understand their lives. And it is just as difficult for them to understand ours. The authors say, “[Persecuted Christians] pray for things [American Christians] probably wouldn’t think to pray for, and never pray for many of the things we do…It can be difficult for someone who has been fully immersed in the culture of the persecuted church to relate to Western believers who think it’s a really tough day when their daughter doesn’t make the cheerleading squad.” Shallowness pervades our congregations. But the simple truth is that to whom much is given, much is required. God has given us political, spiritual, and material blessings and freedoms so that we can encourage and strengthen through prayer and advocacy those Christians who have no freedoms and no resources.
First Corinthians chapter 12 compares the church, the body of Christ, to a physical body, with each member having a different function. Verse 26 says that if one member suffers, then all the members suffer with it. Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated since you yourselves are also in the body.” As Christians with religious freedom, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility of supporting and standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who share our faith but not our freedom.
So what can you do to help? You can pray! Brother Andrew, author of God’s Smuggler and founder of Open Doors, says, “Prayer is not preparation for the battle; prayer IS the battle!” The World Watch List comes out every year and ranks the top 50 countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for their faith. I’d like to invite you to pray for each country on the World Watch List in 2012 by taking the 5 Minute Challenge. Click here for more information on how you can sign up to receive an email once a week highlighting a country for whom you can pray. Take just 5 minutes a day to strengthen and encourage those who share our faith but not our freedom!