To live out your faith means different things to different people. For persecuted Christians it can mean risking their lives for simply possessing a Bible or talking about Jesus to people who hate them for it. It might mean giving up everything they own for the kingdom of heaven, showing compassion to people who want to kill them, or attending church despite oppression from those around them.
Few of us have been in this situation; we are free to follow Jesus in our society. But this is not an excuse to become complacent about how we show others what Jesus has done in our lives. Whilst the ways in which we live for Christ may be different, the principles are still the same: “to act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6.8)
In an atmosphere of extreme persecution and hatred, to follow God and act with love must, to some be unimaginably difficult. But still the church manages to do so. Recently Open Doors told the story of Eun Hee, a North Korean woman who moved secretly back and forth between China and North Korea, delivering food and clothing and supporting fellow Christians. Even as the police closed in on her, she refused to give up her mission.
Eun Hee trusted God with her life, and was willing to choose obedience to her heavenly Father over all else. She lived out her faith with complete certainty in God’s sovereignty in all things. Often when we say that we don’t know how to live for Jesus we are really saying that we struggle to surrender to God and trust His purpose. When we rely on Him to guide our lives, we gain new security that we couldn’t find anywhere else. For those times when it feels really difficult to trust in God, looking to the persecuted church can be a source of challenge and inspiration. We can all strive to follow the example set by believers such us Eun Hee.
Part our walk with God is to love our neighbours, and we’re told in Matthew 5 to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. For a member of the persecuted church, their enemies and persecutors might be violent and oppressive, yet Christians in those situations still find ways to reach out in love. We can follow their example and act with compassion and love to those we meet, even those who are hostile to our faith.
Perhaps that could mean buying coffee and a sandwich for a homeless person, starting a conversation with someone who ridicules religious belief or just smiling at someone who you don’t get on with. Acts such as these help us to confront our own prejudices and mature in faith. These may be small things. But when we follow the example of the persecuted church and trust God, he can do something huge with them.