I remember watching a video of Richard Wurmbrand as a teenager. Up till then I had no idea what persecution looked like. Utterly shocking. Yet even after watching it, I probably had only the tiniest clue as to the pressures and problems Christians faced in that era in Communist Romania. So it amazes me when I hear Christians here declaring that we have it too easy, that a bit of persecution would cause us to be more zealous, and so the church would grow. Of course they may be right – maybe it would take that to restore our passion; maybe I’m just a softie who doesn’t fancy suffering for my faith; but personally I think it is naïve – supposing we got persecution, and weren’t up to the mark – we’re all a pretty soft lot these days!
Well the Israelites in Exodus 1:10-14 were beginning to find out what persecution felt like, as Pharaoh began a program of suppression. His aim was to work them out of existence; to enslave them to reduce their power; to break their wills and to submit to his. If there was a way to grind them down, he was going to find it. However, ‘the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.’ Those who think persecution might be a good thing may use these verses to justify their stance – but in actual fact those Israelites were already fruitfully multiplying. I don’t see much of that in the west today. In truth, few of us pose sufficient threat to rampant materialism for anybody to notice us, let alone persecute us!
Which ever way you look at these verses, we should be encouraged to pray hard for those who are facing oppression and persecution for their faith today. We should use our freedom to get information for prayer. We should know about them, and care about them. And we should listen to God. What is he saying about these beloved children of his? Is he putting something on my heart to pray, write letters, or take some sort of action? That will cost me some effort. It might even cost me some money. For these our brothers and sisters being persecuted, it may cost their homes, their families, their health, their lives.
Unlike the Israelites, Christians under persecution often have the choice to end their own sufferings – by renouncing their faith. Pray they do not. And pray that we in the comfortable areas of the world have passion and zeal in our faith, that we might be fruitfully multiplying, with or without persecution.