Identifying with those who truly suffer for Christ
April 5, 2014
I was drawn to this book after reading Nik Ripken's "The Insanity of Obedience." Like that one this volume was also difficult to put down. Using a pseudonym for security reasons, the author is a master storyteller. Following fifteen years of investigative research among persecuted Christians in various parts of the world, he recounts their experiences of suffering for Christ (as well as his own reactions) in vivid detail. I cannot imagine how a genuine believer can read this book without being convicted as to his own minimal level of commitment. What the Western church refers to as "persecution" pales in comparison to what multiplied thousands of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world go through everyday in order to keep the flame of the Gospel burning brightly. Ripken's plea is that we not only seek to identify with these fellow-believers through prayer, but to be willing to suffer with them wherever we are. While our first--and perhaps most natural--response is to work for the release of those held captive by enemies of the faith, the author proposes that we take a step back in order to evaluate how the Lord is using their suffering for the spread the Good News of salvation. That is a fully biblical concept that those of us living within the bubble of our own "comfort zones" tend to overlook! In that respect, "The Insanity of God" (as well as its companion volume) take dead-aim at the so-called "prosperity gospel," which is a gross perversion of New Testament teaching that has unfortunately been imported from America to the rest of the world. An amazing quote that I took from the book is one that of a man who had spent years enduring the loss of all for the sake of Christ told Ripken. It is a message that we who have been given much should take to heart. Referring to the faithful witness of the power of the resurrection, he said, "Don't ever give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution." The author leaves us asking--or, if we are not, we should be asking--why is it that Western Christians suffer so little for our faith? Several days after closing the book, I am still asking that question. Ripken is clear...the leading cause of Christian persecution is believers' testifying to the reality of Jesus Christ. Were that to stop, persecution would cease. The author admits to sometimes being asked if he thinks Christians in America will one day experience similar persecution as their fellow-believers in other places are now enduring. His reply: "Why would Satan want to wake us up when he has already gotten us to shut up." Anyone with a heart for Christian mission, and especially the persecuted church, should read this book. But be prepared to emerge from its pages a changed person...one whose heart will either be softened or hardened.