Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. John 15:20a
This past weekend, Pam and I motored to Batavia, Illinois where, with an old friend, Pastor Ron Weidler, we celebrated the 125th anniversary of Immanuel Lutheran Church. It was a beautiful drive, marked by sunny skies, pastoral fields, old country churches with their crosses, and a newly erected mosque.
Having traveled the world, I rejoice in our country’s love of freedom that allows varying religions and denominations to build places of worship without fear or threat of reprisals. Freedom of religion, which permits peaceful coexistence between people holding differing theological positions, is a great blessing that needs to be highly valued.
Freedom of religion is a concept that ought to be exported to the rest of the world. Indeed, I would have you join with me in praying that every man, woman, and child be given the freedom, without persecution, to hear both the Savior’s story of salvation and the narrative of God’s promises and how Jesus' life, death, and resurrection fulfilled those prophecies. I believe, with all my heart, that many millions would be saved if they had a chance to see how wonderfully unique and true the story of their redemption is.
Of course, the idea of letting people be free to meet the Savior and hear of His sacrifice to free us from sin, death, and devil is not an idea that will be welcomed in many countries of the world. Last week, in the Turkish city of Malatya, three men who were working at a Bible publishing house were tied up and had their throats slit. Ten college students have been arrested for the crime. A local newspaper reports that one of those arrested explained, "We didn't do this for ourselves, but for our religion. Our religion is being destroyed. Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion."
The murderer has reinforced a lesson Jesus taught almost 2,000 years ago. He said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” When Jesus walked among us those who should have recognized Him refused to do so. Instead of assisting Him, they persecuted Him. Rather than helping Him, they crucified Him.
The events of this past week say that Satan will do anything to stop people from hearing how their sins have been forgiven by the Savior’s sacrifice. Many nations of the world are still afraid to let their lost citizens meet their Redeemer who alone can forgive them. Hearts that are still shackled by evil continue to reject the freedom that Jesus won for them upon the cross.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, even as I give thanks for your sacrifice which has saved me, I rejoice in the freedom that allows me to worship and praise You. Today I pray that the Holy Spirit will comfort the families of these three men who only wanted to share the story of salvation with the lost. I also ask that those hearts and political borders, which today are closed to that story, may be opened to see the wonders of your love. In Your name I ask it, Amen.
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