At the time that Mark's gospel was written, horrific persecution was assailing the Church. I cannot even wrap my brain around the horrors that Christians suffered under Nero and Titus—the atrocities of the torture and killing is just too much for my cushy-Western-sheltered-American mind to comprehend. It is easy to read things like this academically, and just pass unemotionally over the words on the page, as we do while reading history books about wars we never heard of and never cared about. However, we cannot just read the words and ignore the content. The reality is that Christian persecution is not history; it has been going on for two thousand years and it has not stopped. People today are being killed for their faith. As you read these words, somebody is DYING because they love Jesus. Stop reading and think about that for a moment. Do you get that ? Do you really comprehend that? Someone’s heart just stopped beating. Somebody’s child is fatherless or motherless. There is a widow or a widower whose world just collapsed. A congregation just lost a pastor or a beloved church member. There is a gunshot, an explosion, or a machete. Somewhere, there is a dark red bloodstain. And that blood belongs to someone who is your brother or sister.
Maybe I am being a little intense. That is actually my point. Did you know that there is a Christian murdered by a Muslim extremist every five minutes? That is over 100,000 every year. And that is not including people killed by other hostile groups. This is a REAL, and it’s going on NOW. Human torches and gladiatorial-style events may be a thing of the past, but suicide bombers and ax murders are a thing of the present. While you and I are sitting in our offices, bedrooms, dens or dorms in our cushy chairs, contemplating whether it is worth risking friendships to talk about Jesus, there are people out there who are dying for their witness. While we are complaining about the amount of homework we have and bemoaning our work schedules, there are people who are suffering the loss of their loved ones in hiding and in silence. I am not saying this to give a guilt trip – we are blessed here, and that is just a fact. Praise God! I am saying this because Christians in Mali, Cuba, Iran, Libya, China, India, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Belarus, Uzbekistan and many other nations need your prayers. They need your support and your awareness. There is nothing more powerful than an intercessory prayer made out of genuine love for a brother in need. Pray for Asia Bibi, who is being imprisoned in Pakistan. Pray for her husband and two daughters. Pray for Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese Christian who has been in and out of government incarceration for years. Pray for the Indonesian church, and pray for Muslims—pray for the small percentage of radicals who are doing the violence, and pray for the peaceful majority, who are hurt by the evil deeds of the few and who have little exposure to the truth of the gospel. Pray that God will break your heart for what breaks His-- let your heart and your spirit be rent and ripped for your brothers and sisters who are persecuted.