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American Christians challenged by martyrs around the world


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Citing several recent examples of Christian persecution and martyrdom around the world, Al Bean, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, questioned how American Christians can rest while so many of their brothers and sisters are being martyred around the world.
Speaking during a Nov. 18 chapel on the Kansas City campus, Bean said “Christian martyrdom is not a matter of lions and Roman coliseums, 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.
“As believers 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 cut through our lack of knowledge and understanding and move beyond any feelings of frustration about what we can do and to seek an openness for the gospel around the world.”
Bean described how Joshua 1:10-15 serves as a model for understanding the present kingdom struggle. As the nation of Israel began to enter into the promised land, the people knew their number was too small to take the land without God’s leading; yet, without human obedience to God, the nation would never receive the gift God promised them.
“If they followed God, if they put their faith into action, then all of God’s people would have rest. They would have their home and their freedom,” said Bean. He explained that Joshua reminded the men of the 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.”
He questioned how American Christians can truly enjoy their many blessings at Thanksgiving when their sisters and brothers around the world struggle to claim God’s inheritance, when they have not received the rest God wants to give them.
“Will we enjoy our rest or will we crossover and fight with our brothers and sisters — spiritually, politically and economically — 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. He referred students to Ephesians 6. After Paul described a Christian’s spiritual armor, he instructed the Ephesians to pray always for all the saints and for Paul that he may be able to share the gospel. “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.
He explained such prayer must not be vague, but with knowledge of the situation. There are too many sources of information about what is going on around the world for Christians to be uninformed when they pray, 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. “We pray because we know that God cares, that God is involved, that God answers, and because we believe in almighty God.”
Challenging students with the possibility that many may have given up on such a concept of God or written off the struggles of the persecuted as part of God’s sovereignty, Bean reminded them that “God grieves because he still has sons and daughters who are being crucified literally and symbolically. They have given their lives to stand and live for Jesus Christ.”
“I am convinced that there are some things that God does not do because no one asks him to. God has placed a prayer burden on our hearts and we have not responded,” said Bean. He stated many pray for nearby concerns, but seldom for “distant places, bloody places, and crying places.”
Bean said prayer will direct how Southern Baptists should use their many resources and how Christians should use their 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.
Before closing with a time of prayer, Bean read Isaiah 62:6. The words of the prophet exhorted Jerusalem to pray continually and give God no rest until he establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
“The inspired word of God authorizes a continual passionate, persistent, personal hanging on God. Give Him no rest,” said Bean. “Are we the watchman that God has placed upon the walls of this world who will give God no rest until he does what he wants to do, until he does what he says he will do, until he does indeed make the body of Christ — the church — established, radiant and beautiful.”