This year, in light of our recent partnership with Open Doors, we are taking some time to try and look at Easter through the eyes of the persecuted church.
At Easter we remember the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, that He went through so that we can have relationship with God through Him. There are Christians in many countries who are persecuted daily for their faith, they are suffering and some are being killed because they believe in what Jesus did for them. We’re not comparing the suffering of persecuted Christians today to the suffering and death that Jesus went through, because He experienced the worst suffering, and death of the most horrendous kind, but we do want to draw out some of the parallels and comparisons.
Here is a reflection Jo Murray wrote for us:
Luke 9:23 ‘”And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”‘
For so many of us in the west, it usually doesn’t cost us too much to follow Jesus. Living in a country that allows religious freedom, we can meet with other believers at any time and we can openly express our faith in Jesus with no fear that it will lead to us being persecuted in any great way. Perhaps our biggest fear is looking a bit foolish to some people by sharing our faith. We don’t face social exclusion or the physical threat of violence that many Christians around the world face daily.
India is one such place where it is becoming increasingly dangerous to be a Christian; it is one of the countries where there is a growing, vigorous and persistent opposition to those who believe in Jesus.
One young girl who lives in Northern India, Tara, is the only Christian in her household. She lives in the same house as her family but because of her faith in Jesus she is given a small separate room to live in. None of her family will speak to her, touch her or look at her. They will not eat food or water that she has cooked or touched. They believe her to be contaminated, and completely ostracize her. In addition to this hardship, they will not help with her living costs or her school fees. This means that Tara has had to do extra manual labour in order to earn enough to live.
Tara is 14 years old.
Can you imagine what this must be like for Tara? Can you imagine your family treating you like this just because of your faith? At just 14 years old?
While it is sad to read, this is just the surface of some of the horrendous persecution that is happening all over India. For believers in India, faith could be a death sentence, yet they count this cost and know it is worth it. Tara has counted the cost but holds that she could never turn from her faith in God, she says:
“I know that Jesus is the true God. I can never substitute Him for anything. Nothing can compare to the peace I have received in Him.”
The persecuted church know the cost. They know the cross they might have to carry, but they also know that there is nothing worth carrying more for the gain of our dear Saviour. As we lead up to Easter when we remember that Jesus carried the cross and died for us upon it, may we remember that we have a Saviour who is infinitely worth more than any cross we carry and let us remember and pray for those who have to bear the weight of particularly heavy crosses around the world.
Pray: Lord Jesus, may Your light break through the darkness in India through Your church. Strengthen our brothers and sisters, that they may face trials with love and grace, and so turn the hearts of their persecutors to You. Soften the hearts of those in power, that they may have compassion on Your church.