“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44-45).
This is a very difficult command to follow, especially when Christians are considered the most persecuted faith group in the world.
Since the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohammad Morsi from power in Egypt six weeks ago, there has been a backlash against Christians across the country, according to World Watch Monitor. Christians have been killed, including a 10-year-old Christian girl walking home from Bible class on a street in Cairo, and Christian shops, churches and homes burned.
In Syria, civil war has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. The conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and the rebel forces has driven thousands of Christians into temporary shelters either inside the country or in horrid refugee camps in bordering countries. Some jihadist rebels are specifically targeting believers, including kidnapping of Christians.
Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist organization which wants to spread strict Sharia Law throughout Nigeria, continues its mayhem in northern Nigeria. The group has pursued both Christians and moderate Muslims. Over the past few months Boko Haram has directed its attacks on schools, which has resulted in the death of dozens of innocent children.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Christians are also under siege in places such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Eritrea and Pakistan.
Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors, once said: “It seems like we Christians have lists of people we don’t want to see in heaven.”
According to Brother Andrew, it always starts with prayer.
“If you want to help people, you must first pray that the Lord Jesus will open your eyes to His Word; that He will fill your heart with compassion and then you must be obedient. In Matthew 7:12 it says, ‘So In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’
“So go to friend and enemy and treat them as you would like to be treated yourself. Actually, enemies do not exist. When I'm talking to people who kill others, I don't see a terrorist in front of me. I see a man who needs Jesus. We have to meet our so-called enemies at a specific place – at the foot of the cross. Do we Christians actually understand that we are the only ones with a message of hope in any conflict whatsoever? No single religious belief can do that.”
North Korea is the worst place in the world to be a Christian. It has been No. 1 on the Open Doors’ World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians for 11 years in a row. And for good reason! Believers and three generations of their family can be put in awful political prison camps for simply being caught with a Bible or mentioning the name of Jesus. In fact, 50,000 to 70,000 of the estimated 200,000 in the gulags are Christians.
But perhaps the persecuted can teach us a lesson about praying for persecutors. Many North Korean Christians are fervently praying for Kim Jong-Un and other communist leaders.
An Open Doors contact states that Christians not only ask that God leads them, they also pray for Kim Jong-Un’s soul. “They don’t pray that God will depose him or get rid of him. They genuinely ask God to save their leader for the eternal life.”
Joo Eun, 38, is a North Korean refugee who was about to be sold into marriage in China, but instead escaped and found Jesus while living with a Christian family. Joo Eun and her group are praying that Kim Jong-Un will change and reform North Korea, and he will be an instrument in God’s hands. “God, save Kim Jong-Un,” she exclaims.
Let their daily prayer become ours as well. Not only for Kim Jong-Un but such persecutors as Abuakar Shekau (Boko Haram in Nigeria), Mullah Omar (Taliban leader in Afghanistan), Isaias Afewerke (president of Eritrea) and Omar Al-Bashir (president of Sudan).
As Jesus said to Saul on his way to Damascus: “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18).
Jerry Dykstra is media relations director for Open Doors USA (www.OpenDoorsUSA.org, based in Santa Ana, California), the American arm of Open Doors International, a worldwide ministry supporting persecuted Christians since 1955.
Publication date: August 15, 2013