In the last blog, we looked at the third command in Hebrews 13:1-19, "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (13:3). We saw that this command means, "remember those who are in prison or suffering for the sake of Christ because you are one with them in Christ." In other words, our persistent advocacy for them, proceeds from our profound unity with them.
But the question is this: in the ebb and flow of daily life, how are we to obey this command. Most of us probably don’t know people who are suffering to a great extent, and so what are we to do? First, at Glory of Christ we support several missionaries who serve in difficult places and who do endure various sorts of persecution at various levels of intensity. David and Carmen Gunderson serve among the Somalis right here in the Twin Cities. Our partners in India serve among Hindu and Muslim peoples who can be very violent at times, in fact, I just remembered a brother in the Lord who has been in prison there for the sake of Christ for the last several months. Amos and Meredith Anderson serve among the Muslim peoples in Albania and they’ve endured many difficulties in their years there. And Catherine Rivard serves among the people of Papua New Guinea who have a long history of violence and even cannibalism. When Catherine was here recently I asked her if the people still practice cannibalism, and after thinking for a moment she said, “Not much.” “Not much” sounds like “yes” to me!
Beloved, each of these precious people, whom we know, are enduring various levels of difficulty and persecution for the sake of Jesus and we need to remember them. We need to pray for them. We need to let them know that we’re thinking about them and that we care. Recently when Catherine was with us, Kim and I had lunch with her and she encouraged us to send her one or two sentence e-mails that simply say, “We’re thinking of you, we love you, and we’re standing with you in prayer.” She told us that given the state of the internet in that part of the world, it’s actually hard for them to receive long messages and they would rather not have to do that unless it’s necessary. So again, she said, just send short notes and know that they are very encouraging and help our missionaries feel like they’re not alone.
As I thought about what Catherine said, I decided to add something to what I already do to help me remember our missionaries. The thing I already do is this: each week I devote one day to praying for our missionaries and remembering them by name, and Lord willing I’ll continue to do that. The new thing that I’ve already begun to do is that I set up an alert in my Google calendar so that once per month I receive a reminder telling me to write to our missionaries. As per Catherine’s instructions, I don’t write long notes and therefore it doesn’t take very long, but I do write and say, “Kim and I are thinking of you and praying for you.” And I must say that I’ve been surprised by the length, depth, and intensity of the responses I’ve received just because they’ve felt so cared for and prayed for. Thanks to Catherine, I’ve developed a new way to remember those who are in prison and who are being mistreated for the sake of Christ.
Another way we can obey this command is by going to www.persecution.org and signing up for their snail mail newsletter or their e-mail alert system or their smart phone app that calls on us to pray for particular people in various parts of the world. This website is run by the Voice of the Martyrs, and I deeply love and appreciate this ministry because it helps me to stay in touch with the persecuted church by focusing on specific people in specific places who have specific needs for prayer and support. If you’ve never been to their site, I strongly encourage you to do so, and if your flesh fights against it just say to yourself, “It’s pastor’s orders, I have to do it!” Believe me, you’ll be blessed if you do.
However, we go about obeying this command, the point is that we are to remember our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Christ as an act of worship toward our Father. This command is not mainly about being compassionate people; it’s about being Christian people who acknowledge with their actions that they are one in Christ with those who suffer for Christ. So let us offer this acceptable worship to God and do whatever it takes to remember these precious people.