Let mutual love continue…Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.
Hebrews 13:1, 3 (NRSV)
These days it can be relatively easy being a Christian in the West, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the first century, when the letter to the Hebrews was written, Christianity was a very new religion. The Christian message that ‘Jesus is Lord’ was regarded as a threat to the Roman Caesars’ authority. Many were thrown into jail for their faith. In those days prisoners’ needs were supplied by their friends and relatives, not by the authorities. Paul, for example, when he was in prison, thanked the churches in Macedonia for supporting him by providing for his physical needs and also through prayers and visits (Philippians 4:15); they certainly were not complacent. Some, however, were. Paul told Timothy that: ‘Demas, in love with this present world, [had] deserted [him] and gone to Thessalonica…’ (2 Timothy 4:10).
Had Demas turned against Paul? Maybe, but I don’t think so. It could just as easily be said that Demas’s priorities had become wordlier. He might have thought that his life in society would be a better witness to Christ than supporting Paul. After all, Paul was on death row whereas Demas’s life was very much a reality.
We have a similar situation today. Do most Western Christians see their witness to Christ as living ‘good’ lives in society but lack a concern for their persecuted brothers and sisters? Many Christians living in the Middle East, or under oppressive dictatorships, fear meeting together or having Bibles. If their religious affiliation was known they could be ostracised by their families or communities. They could be placed at the end of the queue when it comes to the provision of food or medical supplies. In addition, in some countries, converts from Islam can put their lives in danger.
Being a Christian in Western society has its own problems. But let’s make every effort not to become complacent by remembering our responsibility for the needs of our persecuted brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.
Lord God, sometimes I find it difficult to shake off the ease of my society in favour of the difficulties experienced by others. Give me understanding of their plight, and determination to commit myself to their support. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Study by Christopher Reeves
About the writer:
Christopher Reeve is a Minister and Assistant Pastor of the Blean (Canterbury) congregation of Grace Communion International, called the Invicta Fellowship.
Blean Village Hall
Canterbury CT2 9JA
Saturday 11:30 am
Local congregational contact:
Word of Life contact: