All-Embracing Love

Today I finished reading Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand. It’s not the most well-written book, but it certainly is eye-opening, although, probably not for the reasons one would immediately think of; and I do encourage you to read it.

Wurmbrand was an orphaned Jew, brought up in an atheist home, in Romania during World War I. He met a Christian carpenter in a small village who gave him a Bible to read and prayed for him passionately; and over time Wurmbrand was won over by Christ’s love for him. He writes, “The Bible he gave me was written not so much in words, but in flames of love fired by his prayers. I could barely read it. I could only weep over it, comparing my bad life with the life of Jesus; my impurity with His righteousness; my hatred with His love–and He accepted me as one of His own.”

Soon after, his wife became a Christian; then they began to share God’s word and win others to Christ and began a church. Wurmbrand had a heart for the Russian people (much like I have a heart for young women) and although the Communist Party and Nazism reigned during this time, he continued God’s work. Needless to say, Wurmbrand was arrested a tortured for sharing his faith…for a total of fourteen years!

He describes some of the torture inflicted upon himself and others throughout the book, but what really struck me most, is that he continued to pour out love on everyone and attempted to win them to Christ…including those who were torturing him!

In American culture, this would be unthinkable! “Show love to someone who has hurt me? You must be joking, right? Share the gospel with a rapist or murderer!? No way!”

But I love what Wurmbrand says:

…my aim is to spread the gospel to the Communists, to give them the good news about Christ, who is my Lord and loves the Communists. He has said Himself that He loves every man and that He would rather leave ninety-nine righteous sheep then allow the one that went astray to remain lost. His apostles and all the great teachers of Christianity have taught this universal love in His name. St. Macary said, “If a man loves all men passionately, but says only about one man that him he cannot love, the man who says this is no more a Christian, because his love is not all-embracing.” St. Augustine teaches, “If all mankind had been righteous and only one man a sinner, Christ would have come to endure the same cross for this one man, He so loves every individual.” The Christian teaching is clear. Communists are men and Christ loves them. So does every man who has the mind of Christ. We love the sinner even thought we hate the sin.

We know about the love of Christ toward the Communists by our own love toward them.

I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold–and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.

Later, the Communists who had tortured us were sent to prison, too. Under communism, Communists, and even Communist rulers, are put in prison almost as often as their adversaries. Now the tortured and torturer were in the same cell. And while the non-Christians showed hatred toward their former inquisitors and beat them, Christians took their defense, even at the risk of being beaten themselves and accused of being accomplices with communism. I have seen Christians give away their last slice of bread (we were given one slice and week) and the medicine that could save their lives to a sick Communist torturer, who was now a fellow prisoner. (pp. 54-55)

Wow! Today, I also read Acts chapter 7, and noticed the same Christ-like character in Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Verses 59-60 say, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Can you imagine if we all loved like Christ? If, instead of speaking words full of hatred, we actually lived out our convictions and loved the people who hurt us. Think of the lives that could be saved, and the hearts won over if we showed love to those who’ve hurt us, or even worse, hurt (sinned against) God. We should never stop speaking truth into the lives of others– remember, we are watchmen in our communities and families–but neither should we desire to see others hurting, suffering, or burning in hell because of their sinful lifestyle choices. We still have time to reach them (but we don’t know how much)! God loves them and wants them brought to Him. Remember, His word says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

I Am Peter

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down you life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:36-38)

I don’t know about you, but when I was younger this was me. “I’ll never do that!” I’d state. I learned over time, that it’s much easier to say that, until your life, future, or image is on the line. It’s so easy to fall, fail, or make a life-changing mistake; it happens in an instant! Often one moment of weakness leads to another, and yet another, until you’ve learned to block out the voice in your head telling you to stop for a moment and think about the consequences of your actions.

Peter thought he’d never disown Jesus; he’d lay his life down for Him! He loved Him! But in a moment of weakness–and fear–Peter denied the one he loved and slunk off into the shadows, ashamed, and full of bitter sorrow. Just as Peter wept over his shame and weakness, I’ve found myself in the same sorrowful predicament. I may never have outwardly spoken my disowning, but my actions certainly never showed that God reigned supreme over my life, or that I was His follower.

And yet, just a few chapters later, in the book of Acts, Peter preaches to a crowd of strangers that Jesus is the Messiah; a powerful, Holy Spirit-filled message of truth, love, and repentance! Peter becomes the leader of the early Christian church!

It is so easy to fall. It’s so easy to feel like it’s the end of the world and that God can’t use us because of our failures. But time and time again, He’s shown in His deed and word that He can use us! That His plans for us are solid and good and purposeful!

My experiences have taught me mercy and grace and compassion for my fellow man. They’ve taught me that when you make a mistake you have to fall upon your face before God admitting them. And they’ve taught me that sin is sin. I can’t sugarcoat what I’ve done, I can’t say that it’s okay for some people, but not for others; because it shouldn’t have been done, period. It’s wrong and it will always be wrong. I was wrong!

I am Peter. I may have fallen, but God has picked me up. What He’s got planned for me, I have no idea. What He’s taught me, is immeasurable. But every day I ask Him for another chance. Another chance to show Him that I love Him; another chance to show Him that I can be and do what He’s created me for; and another chance to accept any present and/or future responsibilities that He chooses to bless me with.