How do you feel about putting those two words together: “suffering” and “church”? It seems to me that it feels unnatural and abnormal. The suffering church is other Christians in other places and at other times. It isn’t us here now, so it cannot be normal! Yet, the New Testament would have us believe otherwise. As we were reminded at our recent Weekend at Home, Christians are “aliens and strangers in the world” who can expect to “suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 2:11, 1:6). The suffering church, apparently, is the normal church – and we are the abnormal ones!
That perspective is borne out in news from around the world today. Let me give you a sample from the August edition of Evangelicals Now. On July 1st, in Kenya, 17 people (3 of them children) were killed and scores wounded in a gun and grenade attack on two churches during their Sunday services. In June, two members of the security forces in Laos were discharged from their posts when they became Christians. Also in June, in Vietnam, officials destroyed two new church buildings belonging to the Hmong people and threatened to tear down a third. Meanwhile in Iran, Farshid Fathi Malayeri, who was arrested in December 2010 and sentenced in March 2012 to six years in prison, has had that sentence upheld, even though the son of one of the country’s most senior Muslim clerics has praised Farshid’s character and denounced the sentence. Let’s pray that their faith will be proved genuine through these trials, to the praise, glory and honour of Christ.
Senior Minister (Vicar)