16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ Matthew 10, selected verses
It’s often hard to remember how good we have it here in the USA. COVID, layoffs, social violence, and more make life here…not hard, but harder than we’re used to. Honestly, we still have one of the highest living standards in the world. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair once observed that the measure of a country is how much people want to get into it. Our country is almost literally beating them off with a stick!
We don’t live in mud huts or shanties. We have clean drinking water and plumbing. This year’s hoarding episodes aside, we have supermarkets with no lines and more food than most of the world’s population can imagine. I once heard a comedian observe that The Food Channel would be a form of porn in some countries.
Christianity is being persecuted here. No talk of God allowed in government or schools. To advocate God’s laws is being seen increasingly like hate speech. People can lose their jobs over their Christian beliefs. Some people are beaten in public confrontations over their faith.
Still, systematic persecution is not here yet. It’s hard to imagine just how bad it is in other countries. I saw an article in the London Daily Mail about the abuses perpetrated by the North Korean government against religion in general and Christianity in particular.
While the prisons are designed to punish all religious believers, former inmates recalled how the harshest punishments were reserved for Christians.
Pregnant women are forced into abortions and newborns are killed. There is an electrified cage, three feet high by four feet wide that people are forced to sit in until they die. One Christian survivor told how he prayed for deliverance. He passed out after twelve hours and woke up with multiple injuries from a beating he was given while unconscious!
The report detailing these abuses was collected by the London-based Korea Future Initiative, which helps rescue people from North Korea. The accounts came from 117 victims rescued by that agency. They related hundreds of instances where people were punished for their beliefs; imprisonment, all manner of torture, sexual violence, and even public executions designed as a deterrent.
Family members turn each other in. Some imprisoned Christians save themselves by agreeing to act as spies and help ferret out other believers in their community. It is common for whole families to simply disappear without a trace.
Il-lyong Ju, exiled human rights advocate who helped put the report together, said: ‘The cruel actions of the privileged few in North Korea who take our lives and control our thoughts must be prevented.
‘North Korean officials, whose crimes evoke thoughts of Auschwitz, must be identified and held accountable.
‘And we must not forget the testimonies of the survivors in this report who have overpowered death in North Korea.
‘This is the least that we, the free North Koreans, and you… who has been granted freedom at birth, can do as our collective act of humanity.
‘We have freedom. The North Korean people do not.’
Indeed, these actions are just like what the early church suffered in Rome and beyond. Some Christians went bravely to their fates. Others renounced their faith to escape the lions and other public “entertainments.” The church at that time was sharply divided as to whether such lapsed believers should ever be allowed back!
Such are the persecutions that are shockingly common in many countries. Our fellow Christians need our prayers and whatever other help we can offer. One of the biggest weapons is knowledge. The more people who know about this North Korean pogrom against Christians, the harder it will be for them to continue.
If you feel so moved, I ask you to share this article as much as possible. This is something I don’t normally ask, but it’s important.
And keep praying!