Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2017
Texts: 1 Peter 1:6, 3:13–22; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12–14; Revelation 12:17; 1 Peter 4:17–19
Where in the world is it most difficult to live as a Christian? OpenDoors, serving persecuted Christians worldwide, keeps a World Watch List. Beginning with the most difficult countries for Christians to live and worship, here are the top ten: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Etrea.1
While the world watches the interplay of test missiles in North Korea and threatening statements between this totalitarian communist state and the US, we cannot forget the 300,000 persecuted Christians who are forced to hide their faith from government authorities, neighbors, friends, employees, and sometimes one’s own family.
If citizens do not worship the ruling Kim family, they are arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and sometimes killed. Whole Christian families are thrown into hard labor camps where they are beaten, overworked, and starved. If they are caught trying to escape, they are usually executed. One woman saw her husband and daughter tortured and killed. She somehow escaped the prison, decided to cross an icy river to get into China, but became unconscious after slipping into the freezing water. By God’s grace she somehow floated across the river and awoke when she bumped into the opposite shore and climbed out to freedom.
Those of us who live in the Western world have become so accustomed to safety, comfort, and convenience that our concept of suffering for Christ is considered a violation to our human rights. But the Bible regards suffering as a normal part of the Christian’s life. It is certainly wrong and a violation of our natural rights … but it’s still a reality in our fallen world. Many countries do not care about religious freedom and the rights of individuals; they only care about the rights of the state.
In our Sabbath school lesson this week, Peter reminds us that suffering for Christians will come. We’d like to think that when Christ comes we’ll see a polite notice in the news, slip on our loafers, set down our cups of herbal tea, and gingerly walk into our backyards and be caught up in the clouds.
Peter practically suggests it’s a privilege to suffer for Christ for it affirms that we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Those who hold their faith too tightly in their fists may suffocate their witness for truth. If our Christian beliefs are not precious to us, they are not worth dying for.
Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer severely in these extremely difficult countries. And let’s remember ourselves, “For to this you were called…” (1 Peter 2:21).
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