by John Gaskin
"Christian martyrdom is not a matter of lions and the Roman Coliseum, or medieval religious wars. It is a 1990s matter in nations we count as friends, nations we woo because they provide oil, cheap labor, or markets for our products," according to Al Bean, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Citing several recent examples of Christian persecution and martyrdom around the world, Bean questioned how American Christians can rest while so many of their brothers and sisters are being martyred around the world.
"As believers," he said, "we are called to pray for the persecuted church-not as an invitation to hate Muslims or Hindus or communists but as a challenge to seek an openness for the gospel around the world."
He recalled for Christians that Joshua reminded the men of the Israelite tribes assigned to the Transjordan that they were to leave their families and possessions behind them and help fight for land that would ultimately not be theirs, but would belong to the other tribes of Israel. Then they could return home and all of Israel would be able to enjoy its rest.
"You and I are like these tribes of the people of God. We have, in measure, already received God's gift. We enjoy privileges of religious freedom-we are free to teach, to preach, to proselytize, to baptize, and to plant churches," said Bean. "We have our rest. It may not be yet complete-certainly our nation has not committed to Jesus as Lord-but we have rest."
"Will we enjoy our rest or will we cross over and fight with our brothers and sisters until they have the rest that God has for them? They face an uphill battle to be able to practice the Christian faith, to simply worship, to share the good news with their children and their neighbors and friends. They do it at great price," said Bean.
"I invite you, in the name of God, to join them in mind and in heart, to figuratively cross over the river and fight with those who simply want to live out the joy of Christ in the society and culture where God has placed them."
The weapon for the fight, according to Bean, is prayer. In Ephesians 6:18, after describing the Christian's spiritual armor, Paul instructed the Ephesians to pray always for all the saints. "Prayer is the most effective weapon that could ever be used because it calls down the power of God, the hand of God, the face of God, upon righteous and unrighteous alike," said Bean.
"Prayer is the answer because the battle is spiritual. The battle is against the evil one and the darkness in the high places, the low places, and the places in between," said Bean. He stated that many pray for nearby concerns, but seldom for "distant places, bloody places, and crying places."
Bean said prayer will direct Christians as to how they should use their resources and influence in political processes and on businesses that neglect concern for abuses of religious freedoms in many countries because the businesses want access to the markets of such countries.
"We pray because we know that God cares, that God is involved, that God answers, and because we believe in almighty God."