It was the international day of prayer for the persecuted church (IDOP). The musical instruments lay dormant on the stage in quiet solidarity, as the worship team led the congregation in singing.
Bless the Lord oh my soul. Oh my soul.
Worship His holy name.
We prayed for the persecuted church. A giant bible stood on stage, wrapped in chains. We prayed some more.
Statistics. Feelings. Stories. More prayer.
It was a moving service; deeply routed in prayer. I think however, that we forget these convictions within months, days, hours, and even minutes. Perhaps we think that since we spent more than 10 minutes in prayer, the ball is in God’s court now. We’ve done our part; given some money, prayed heartfelt prayers, and talked about how we should, could, and will do more. But this isn’t one of those kinds of posts…The fact is, there are always people hurting. And we can always do more.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” -Mother Teresa
I want this post to focus on how we interact with each other here at home despite our freedom of religion.
It was time for communion. As I was about to feel blessed and convicted for such a gift as to be able to celebrate the Lord’s supper in public, with my family of believers, I overheard something that halted my thoughts. We walked over to the communion table at the back of the church and I heard a faint melody.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
That saved a wretch like me.
It was His church; a beautiful, bruised, and joyful church. I’m not trying to compare the life threatening circumstances of underground churches to any social persecution suffered in North America. I would however, like to isolate the word “persecuted” and think about what that meant Biblically and what that can mean in our circumstances. I immediately think of Paul and Silas, and those who were chained, stoned, and beaten for their faith. They were considered outcasts, they were minorities, and they were human.
Churches often say they would welcome anyone who came through their doors. But how often is that a reality? How many times have you actually welcomed someone “different” into your congregation; without hesitation, without judgement, without persecution however silent it may be?
The beautiful melody I was hearing was coming from a group of people who have probably felt a silent social persecution at some point in their lives. They sit at the back of the church and are sometimes noisy. They sometimes sleep during the sermon. They are noticed but often overlooked. They live in a group home for adults with special needs. And they are precious to Him.
As the music floated to me, I searched out where it was coming from. A semi circle had formed with a few people from the group home, and one other member of the church. They were asking her to sing the song again.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.
I watched in quiet fascination as I waited to receive communion; tears lingering in my eyes. In this moment I did not feel sorry for them, I did not want a different life for them; for they don’t need such things. In this moment I appreciated their ability to be completely open and surrendered to God. They had already received communion and when they finished another verse, one woman raised her tiny cup and said something that will not soon leave my mind.
“Here’s to you, my Jesus”
Here’s to you, my Jesus. Here’s to your church around the world and here at home. I hope our inclination turns away from pity and into an abundant and genuine love. Just love; with open eyes and humble hearts.