‘As if you were together with them’
James Fraser, Release International
How would you feel if you were sent to prison because of your faith? In the New Testament letter of Hebrews, the writer says, ‘Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison’ (13:3). He was writing into a context of persecution where being imprisoned for your faith was a very real possibility. The same is true today.
Many Christians in Iran, Eritrea, China, Pakistan, North Korea, and several other countries have been arrested, sentenced, and incarcerated because of their faith in Jesus. Hebrews 13:3 tells us to remember them as if we were with them – to identify with them, to put ourselves in their shoes.
So how would you feel if you were locked up in a cold and dirty cell, separated from your family and friends, living in fear of the guards and other prisoners? How would you want your Christian brothers and sisters to remember you?
Pastor Wang Yi is the leader of Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan province, China. In December 2018 the Communist party authorities raided his church and he was arrested along with more than 100 members of his congregation. He was later convicted of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ and sentenced to 9 years in prison. Since his arrest the pastor’s church and family have been monitored and harassed by the authorities.
Dr Kiflu Gebremeskel was the head of the Evangelical Alliance in Eritrea, and he has been in prison since 2004. He was arrested after an early morning raid on his home. He has never been given a trial and has been prevented from seeing his wife and four children for long periods of time.
Zafar Bhatti was falsely accused of sending a blasphemous text message in Pakistan. He was sentenced to life in prison. His wife Nawab struggles to provide for the family without him.
How would you feel if you were in their position, and how would you want your Christian brothers and sisters to remember you?
Sometimes when we hear about the persecution of Christians the problem can seem so big and so complex that we don’t know where to begin in trying to respond. We feel helpless and we’re not sure that we can make a difference. But we shouldn’t let that feeling paralyse us – we can all do something.
You can pray for Pastor Wang Yi, Dr Kiflu, Zafar Bhatti and their families. You can write a letter to them to encourage them. You might be able to give towards Release International’s ministry supporting Christian prisoners of faith and other persecuted believers. We can all do something to remember.
Release International is a Christian ministry called to love and serve persecuted Christians. We work in around 30 countries across the world bringing prayerful, pastoral and practical support to Christians who suffer for their faith.
Please take a look at the resources we have developed for this year’s International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. And please do subscribe to receive our free regular news and prayer information.
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Article published October 28th 2022