As I noted yesterday, the early church father Tertullian stated, “The blood of the martyrs watered the seed of the church.”While writing of early disciples of Jesus, he also wrote, “kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers (allows) that we thus suffer. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”
One of the most persecuted people in the history of the church were the Anabaptist. They came on the scene shortly after the Protestant Reformation began in 1517. They were distinct from the other Protestant groups because did not believe in or practice infant baptism. Thus, they practiced baptism of adult by immersion in water. This also distinguished them from the Catholic church. So, they were pursued and persecuted by both the Catholic church and Protestant churches. They were often executed by drowning.
The Anabaptist were also pacifist (except for some extreme radical groups). So, when they were captured they would not fight their oppressors. One famous incident is told of an anabaptist who is fled a soldier who was trying to arrest him. The anabaptist ran across a frozen lake in order to escape the soldier. The soldier followed the anabaptist onto the ice. Due to the soldier’s equipment, he was heavy, and his weight cracked the ice. The soldier fell into the icy water. The anabaptist had a clear path to freedom. Instead of running away, he turned back to save the drowning the soldier. The soldier arrested the anabaptist and took him into town. The anabaptist was put on trial for heresy, convicted, and executed.
Yesterday, I asked how we would fair if we had to stand up to persecution. Well some of our brothers and sisters around the world do face persecution. Here is a note from Francis. He leads one of the churches in India. Francis writes:
“On a personal note, persecution where I and my wife were dragged by some Hindu forces (RSS) to a police station (for converting 2 boys from a family – my wife was pregnant and yet beaten by a belt – no harm fortunately) has only helped us to be strong as a married couple for God and helped unite the church. Another time, five of the disciples in Bangalore were beaten and put in jail for 3-4 days (many false charges leveled against them and hurried to a judge’s house in the middle of the night and placed in central jail), just for giving an invite card and evangelizing. About a 100-150 disciples were around the court premises 2 days later and showed amazing support to them – it helped unite the church. In fact, it was the answer to one of these disciples’ prayer to be courageous in evangelism.”
I appreciate our brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution from opponents of the cross. What would you do in such circumstances? It difficult to know. But if we waver in our commitment when life is easy, do we really think we would pass the test if things got difficult. Let’s live each day to the fullest for Jesus.