At some point in my late 20s, I decided that I had three heroes: Roald Amundsen, the Swedish explorer who was first to read the South Pole; Bob Gibson, the Cardinals pitcher who had a fierce desire to win; and Bob Dylan, the best American poet of the 20th century (and the 21st, so far). You could probably throw in people like Golda Meir, the late prime minister of Israel, and Kenneth Starr, who bullheadedly led the prosecution of Bill Clinton.
And, after 2001, you could also include so many members of our police and fire departments.
I still admire these men and women for their accomplishments and courage, but my standard for “heroes” has changed.
Now my heroes are the Christians who endure persecution because they believe in Christ as savior and refuse to recant that belief. They end up in jails, prisons, torture chambers. They are beaten, raped, insulted. They are charged, enticed, lured. They are attacked, stalked, raided.
They are people like Asia Bibi, who was jailed in June 2009 after defending her faith to some Pakistani Muslim women.
They are people like Pastors Philip, Timothy and Siluvai Kumar who were injured when Hindu extremists barged in on a prayer meeting of 40 people and began beating Christians. (Also beaten were Pastor Philip’s pregnant wife and their 18-month-old daughter.)
They are people like Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirizadeh, Iranian Christians who are going to be charged with apostasy and “propagation of the gospel.” They have been in prison for months and are suffering from a variety of illnesses.
They are people like Christian human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng, who has been missing since being hauled away from his home in February by Chinese police. Reports indicate that he is undergoing brutal torture.
The Lord has strongly blessed our and other nations with freedoms and material wealth. It is our job to share that material wealth with those who are being persecuted, and to pray for them on a daily basis.
We can start by observing the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, being observed this year on Sunday, Nov. 8 (or Nov. 7 if you’re a Sabbath keeper like me).
We can continue by staying up to date on the persecuted church at sites like the Voice of the Martyrs, Compass Direct News and many other support organizations (listed here). That way we know what to pray for.
We can send Action Paks through VOM.
We can write letters to imprisoned Christians, in their own languages, through PrisonerAlert.com.
But if we do nothing, we are in direct disobedience to Scripture, which commands us to “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3, NASB).