Saturday 28 October 2017

Jews Speak Up For Christians

 A relatively new sensation has appeared on the Middle East scene by means of Jews standing up for persecuted Christians.

It’s an honest wonder, considering the outrageous history of Jewish persecution at the hands of the ‘church’ throughout the centuries. But it is also inevitably a warm reaction to the growing worldwide support for Israel among Christian people, particularly in Africa.

Thereby, keen to build upon this expanding friendship, the Israeli government has recently hosted an unprecedented media summit in Jerusalem for Christian journalists from around the globe.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the opportunity to speak up for embattled Christians in Iran and neighboring Syria. “Christians today are generally lashed for sipping wine during prayer services,” he said, “brutally tortured for doing nothing rather than practicing their faith. Some world leaders are likely to ignore this oppression and appear to appease Iran, but I am not one of them.”
Yes, even majority of the Western church is silent over the issue, apparently indifferent to their suffering.

Canon Andrew White, referred to as ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ and also speaking in Jerusalem, asked why, adding: “Here we see Jews standing with us, but where is the Church?”

White saw most of his large congregation murdered during the crisis that followed the invasion of Iraq, and countless Christians have been compelled to flee in the face of the Islamic State advance.
Will this weak reaction to the plight of persecuted Christians reflect the flabbiness of our faith? Do we simply fail to comprehend what it must be like because we are so comfortable and therefore not able to recognize what suffering for Christ means? Generally, we are not even prepared to defend what we believe - for the gospel and also the truth of the Bible - if perhaps we should be charged with ‘hate speech’ or ‘homophobia’.

Although some indeed have spoken out and paid dearly for it, the rest of us are generally fearful into silence as we retreat into our holy huddles. However, if we can’t stand reduced heat now, in what way will we fare once the temperatures are turned up and we are called to experience the sort of persecution Jesus predicted for his followers?

“Be alert,” he warned. “You will probably be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues…You will probably be hated by everyone because of me, however, the anyone that stands strong to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10. 17, 22) Many Christians remained quiet while Jews were taken away to the gas chambers and, although now a little bit more secure in their very own state, they are still in very serious danger, and therefore we mustn’t neglect them this time around. Nevertheless, they are ready to help us! 

It’s moment to forsake cowardice and accept the kind of bravery which Christians in some regions of the world are having to exhibit in bucketloads. Consider the believers in Iran, for instance, where Mr. Netanyahu drew the media’s attention. Regardless of the danger of following Jesus there, 20 Iranian Christians recently nailed their colors to the mast in a mass baptism. “I’ve been anticipating this moment for nearly nine years,” said one convert. “This was my wish before I die,” said another. Christianity is expanding thereby extreme measures amid reports of Muslims encountering Jesus through dreams and visions. “We have actually been praying for a long time that Iranian people believe in Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) and get baptized. Now this dream is coming true,” said a convert whose brother was murdered for his faith in 1994.

Yet another tremendously high-risk country to be a Christian is in North Korea, where believers are practically gathering in holes in the ground, much like the faith heroes of old had done according to Hebrews 11.38.

A missionary friend of mine occasionally travels to some part of Africa that is certainly equally dangerous, infested since it is by the Al Shabaab terror organization. Due to this fact, some Christians are forced to sleep in the forest! But my friend was resolute to bring comfort directly to them with his inspiring teaching skills, so he made his way there despite Foreign Office warnings avoiding the region, and the fact he was not able to even be protected by travel insurance for that part of his journey. In addition to that, he nearly died from being infected he picked up on his last trip to the area!

That takes bravery, but he said it was worth it just to see the sheer joy on the faces of his brothers so happy and encouraged by his visit.

I conclude with the heartwarming story of Israeli tennis player Dudi Sela who, due to the courage of his religious convictions, declined the possibility of reaching the semi-finals of an ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Tour event. Just eight minutes into the deciding set, he realized it was almost sunset, which marked the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (the holiest day of the year for Jews). So the 32-year-old informed the umpire of his decision to retire and left the court.

The match was originally scheduled for Yom Kippur itself (i.e. the next day) but was changed to commence ahead of the fast following demand from Israeli tennis officials. Unfortunately for Dudi (ranked 77 in the world), his quarter-final clash went to three sets and couldn’t be finished in time.

The Day of Atonement, when Jews seek forgiveness for sins committed throughout the last year, is finally fulfilled by the coming of Yeshua, their Messiah, who atoned for our sins through his death on the cross as the perfect Lamb of God. (Isaiah 53.6; 1 John 2.2)

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