The persecution of Christians can easily become like an oil leak in your car. You recognize it is a real problem. You know it will only grow. You know there are real ramifications of ignoring it. But you have many things on your mind and you easily forget about it until something happens that reminds you.
That is part of the reason Engage Magazine does our Orange Letter Campaign every year. We want to remind not just that there is a problem, but that you can help.
This week you have heard about the widows in Nigeria. The problem is now staring you in the eyes. You cannot ignore it any longer. And while we all know we should care and be involved in helping persecuted Christians in some way, it is good for us to spend time thinking about why we should help and care. We are not insinuating that you don’t care or have no desire to help, but articulating some of the reasons gives us a more sure foundation upon which to base our help and encouragement.
First, God commands us to care both implicitly and explicitly. Implicitly, the New Testament is filled with accounts of Christians help believers who are being persecuted. Paul visits numerous churches, accepting financial help for those suffering (1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8, Romans 15:25-29, et al). Explicitly, the writer of Hebrews delivers the command, “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).
But why does God give us these commands? There are several reasons we should consider. When we become Christians, we are united to Christ and every other believer throughout history. We are tangibly connected to Noah, Moses, Peter, Paul, and Perseverance. One day we will meet them and know them. How glorious will it be to already have a connection with these dear sisters because we have prayed and wept over them?
And we should pray and weep over them because they are a part of our body in need. If we are emotionally moved but do nothing for them, we do not truly love them. When I was in high school my sister was diagnosed with stage four cancer. She has been in remission for several years now. But I watched as she underwent treatment. I saw her body deteriorate. I was moved by her pain. It caused me to make actionable changes such as getting a job. It deepened my prayer life because I wasn’t only praying for myself but praying for a loved one. So it should be for us with these beloved women.
But our praying for these sisters is not only for their encouragement. When we come to God on behalf of His children, our siblings, we are encouraged as well. Read back over those passages mentioned above. Paul doesn’t only mention the Christians being served, but he says that Christians in Macedonia and Achaia “were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do so” (Romans 15:26-27). Helping other Christians forces us to recognize the blessings God has poured out on us and realize the responsibilities that come with them. Both should result in the praise and worship of our Father.
Lastly, we should encourage our persecuted siblings for the glory of God. The Apostle Peter gives us a command in the midst of our suffering. He says, “If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4:16).
The persecution of Christians is not a defeat of Christ, but a method of purifying His bride. We may not understand it now, but we can trust that we serve a God who is powerful enough to bring about His own glory even though we are “grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6).
So let this Orange Letter Campaign be a time for you to encourage believers you will not meet this side of eternity. But let it also be a time for you to draw encouragement from the same God who strengthens them. And let it all be done for the glory of God.
Remember, you can send your letter to the Nigerian widows to firstname.lastname@example.org.