On Sunday, October 3rd, a good sized group of us gathered at the church at 3:30 to take part in the Sing Conference, complete with singing and teaching. I can’t speak for everyone there, but I greatly enjoyed it. The songs were fun and the teaching was impactful. One of the speakers was from Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that supports missionaries around the world and helps Christian face persecution of the highest degree. And during the speaker’s talk, he brought up a movie that was made by Voice of the Martyrs. They played the trailer during the conference, and it was one of the most powerful trailers I have ever seen. The movie is called Sabina, and it’s a movie I plan on taking the youth group to see because of what it is about. The movie tells the story of Sabina and Richard Wurmbrand, 2 Jews turned Christians in Nazi Europe. They lived in Romania, which was overtaken by Nazi Germany in 1940, and so were targets for the SS to capture and send to one of many concentration camps used for the Holocaust. During this time, many Jews went into hiding, but apparently not the Wurmbrands. They believed they had a job to do as Christians and so stayed and helped the Jews in their community, particularly children, escape and stay safe from Nazi occupation. It is an incredible story, and I encourage you to see the movie when it comes out in November and explore the story for yourself.
But watching that trailer got me thinking. If I was in their shoes, knowing that the Nazis were rounding up people like me, would I stay and help those less fortunate than me or would I be on the first thing leaving? Of course, I would love to say yes, but I’ve never been in that position, and may never be in that position. I challenge you to ask that same question. What would your reaction be to systemic persecution? Jesus says in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” How do you view this passage? Jesus understood that his disciples would face suffering. He knew the vast majority would die for their faith. And I can’t verify this statistically, but that still may be the case worldwide. A lot of Christians around the world are martyred for their faith, but I think they know that it is worth it. I hope you think so too.
The Christian life at its core is countercultural. Jesus wants us to live against the grain. Forgive our enemies, pray for our persecutors, willingly die for our faith, and love everyone we come in contact with, regardless of who they are or what they believe. None of those things are the norm for any other worldview that I am aware of. The Wurmbrands understood that. They lived it, as do so many other Christians along the spectrum of history. But are you living it? Am I living it? I can’t speak for you, but my answer is “not like I should be.” I find that fear has its way in me more than it should. I don’t always pray like I should. Forgiveness is hard for me sometimes. And loving everyone? I fall short there too. I have a long way to go to be all that God wants me to be, but I’m still working at it.
It is for these reasons that I am thankful for God’s grace. He knows I will fall short time and time again. He knows that humans in general will fall short time and time again. It’s why He sent Jesus. But that’s not where He wants our story to end. He doesn’t want us to be okay with just being “sinners saved by grace.” He wants more for us. He wants us to surrender everything to Him so that He can do amazing things through us, like He did through the Wurmbrands. It just takes a simple “Yes, Lord” and He’ll use you to do great things for His kingdom. We need only to trust Him, which I think is easier than we sometimes think it is. I mean, He breathes and stars are formed. He speaks and the universe came to be. I think we can trust Him to help us overcome our fears and anxieties about living counter-culturally so that more people come to know the God of the universe.
In Romans 7, Paul discusses the power of sin versus the power of the Law, and ultimately of Christ. Paul struggles to do what he knows he should do. I have the same problem and I’m willing to bet you do too, but that’s not where our story has to end. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can change into the world changers God has called us to be. I pray everyday that the Holy Spirit would continue to transform me into who God wants me to be, and while I have come quite a ways over the years, I have a long ways to go, but by God’s power, I know that I, as well as you, can get to a place where living counter-culturally, like Jesus did, is normal for us.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)