Wednesday, January 29, 2014
"The World Was Not Worthy of Them": When the persecuted church is lost in the noise
...But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better life. And others experienced mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed apart, murdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earth. And these all were commended for their faith...
Hebrews 11:35b-39a, NET
Last night, a major political speech by the president of the United States ignored several US citizens being held prisoner by foreign governments. Two of these men, Kenneth Bae and Saeed Abedini, are held for reasons related to their Christian faith. To say that I was disappointed that they weren't mentioned, directly or indirectly, or that their relatives in the US were not invited to represent them at the speech as a signal to the world of our intention to see them freed, is an understatement.
As so often happens, though, in the aftermath of my emotional reaction God dropped His Word into my heart. The phrase came to me in the translation I first read it: "men of whom the world was not worthy". I found the passage in its context above and was greatly encouraged, and my reaction was sobered.
You see, refusing to recognize those persecuted for the sake of the Gospel says something significant. It says that the person that is being ignored is lost in the noise. Sometimes it's the noise of good things; sometimes it's the noise of political things; sometimes it's the noise of evil things. But their stories are missed, not because they are unimportant. They are missed because "the world was not worthy of them". Remembering the persecuted, praying for them, calling attention to them and advocating for their release is the job of the church. Sometimes the world will listen - but when they don't, there is still hope.
For even when "the world is not worthy", God still hears our cries, sees our hearts, and has compassion for those in these horrible situations. He commends them for their faith as they are faithful to Him. Whether it's Kenneth Bae, Saeed Abedini, Asia Bibi in Pakistan, or countless thousands whose names we won't know until heaven - God hears their cries and counts their tears. He will lift up their heads. He commends their faith. This is the hope of the Gospel.
This morning I have faith that God is still at work in Saeed Abedini's life and Kenneth Bae's life. He's at work in your life, and in my life. My prayer for the president and all the other political leaders who allowed their stories to be lost in the noise is that God will forgive them because they don't know what they are doing. They don't realize how personally Jesus takes the persecution of His church, His body.
Attention wasn't called to these men last night. But I pray that this morning, God will lift up their heads and whisper to their hearts, "Child, it's ok. I commend you for your faith."