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).

Burning One

This week has been very stressful. I’ve wanted to blog the last few days, but decided against it. I was afraid of writing something inappropriate or bombarding people with more politically heated arguments and I didn’t want to do that to my readers. I have been thinking about a lot, though, and I do have much I’d like to write about, but I’ll try to pace myself, so as not to overwhelm you.

Thursday I read John chapter 17, which I’m going to share with you now:

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be as one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

What a chapter! Yes, I know it’s a bit longer than what I’d normally post on here, but the entire chapter really spoke to me. First off, as Jesus prays over His disciples in verses 6-19, He asks God to protect them (us). He says, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” It couldn’t have been made more clear to me this week, that this is most definitely where we stand as believers. The world hates us!

The world believes that because we speak the truth (express God’s commands and laws) and reject what they believe (that morality is relative and based on the beliefs of the individual), that we have/promote hatred for others. Nothing could be further from the truth!

We speak truth because we love people. We share God’s commands because we want them to go to heaven and see God’s glory. We want them to have eternal life! Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross is the most precious gift ever given to us and we want to share it with everyone, because we love them.

But the world doesn’t understand our love. They believe that when you love people, it means that you let them live life however they want to live it. They believe that when you love people, it means that you should let them do whatever makes them happy.

However, if you use this line of thinking, it is incorrect. I’ll give you an example…As a mother/father you love your child more than anybody. Does that mean you let your child do whatever they want? Does that mean you let them eat whatever they want? Or go wherever they want? Does that mean you take them wherever they want, whenever they want? Do you buy them whatever they want? Do you let them talk to you however they want? Go to school whenever they want? Do you let them stay up as late as they want? Or watch whatever they want? (I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.)

The truth is you don’t let them do whatever they want, whenever they want, because you love them, and want the best for them. Just as Christians love people and want the best for them.

Now, I will be honest and say, there are people out there that claim to be Christians, but are very hateful and have no compassion or mercy for others and I’m going to tell you that  in John 13:35 Jesus himself said that you’ll know a disciple of Christ by the love we have for one another. There are those who pretend to be what they are not and we can see right through them, by their lack of love for others.

Which brings me to my second point (yes, I know my first point was a long one, I told you I got a lot out of this chapter). We are not of this world. We may be here now, but we’re here for a very short time. I tweeted earlier about “How we live in this life will affect where we live in the next.” God left us His word (which I’m thankful for every day!) so that we can read it and study it and follow in Jesus’ footsteps. To be Christians is to be “Christ-like,” and to be sanctified is to be holy and set apart. We are not supposed to look, think, and act like everybody else! We’re not supposed to want the same things others want; our desires should be for Spiritual things! We’re supposed to be different. Our lives should reflect His! When others hate, we should love! When others are angry, we should forgive! When others are disrespectful, we should respect. Is it easy? No! But 1) we don’t rely on our own strength and 2) we’re told ahead of time it’s not going to be easy. Matthew 7:13-14 states that we should “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Only a few ->I think this is so sad; I want to take many with me!)

My last point, has to do with a book that I’ve been reading: Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand (which you’ll probably hear more about in future blogs). Wurmbrand wrote something that really struck me hard and I really need to share with you.

One out of every five people in the world live in Communist China, where thousands of lay Christians evangelize without “permission.” Persecution has always produced a better Christian–a witnessing Christian, a soul-winning Christian. Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands. These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet.

“Serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands“! How this breaks my heart; yet inspires me at the same time. We live in America, where we are free to reach out to the lost, share our faith, go to church, pray, and read our Bibles without persecution, and yet, how often do we take advantage of this gift!? I pray that the church (us!) may be one and that we teach by example; that we lead by example.

This week may have been a stressful week for me, but I tell you, it really made me aware of the spiritual condition of our youth/future (which I have a special place for in my heart); and these past few days have really lit a fire in my chest, that I pray doesn’t get extinguished.

I refuse to conform to this world. I refuse to be deceived by the “you only live once” mentality. I refuse to believe that it’s okay to kill a child in its mother’s womb. I refuse to believe that we should live and let live, when there are so many people on their way to the fiery furnace (Psalm 11:6, 21:9; Malachi 4:1; Matthew 13; Revelations 9:2, 19:20, 21:8).

I entitled this post “Burning One” based on the Jesus Culture song, “Burning Ones” because all day there was a burning in my chest compelling me to write what you see here. I love you and I pray that the Holy Spirit uses this post to change your heart the way He’s been moving in mine.

Take care and God Bless!