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).

Advertisements

Watchmen

The coming of the cherubim as described in Ezekiel 1

I began reading the book of Ezekiel this week and became suddenly animated and spiritually excited. I just finished reading Jeremiah and Lamentations, which were oh so sad. The book of Jeremiah described Jeremiah pleading with the Israelites to return to God, or God would allow calamity to overcome them as punishment for their sins, which is what eventually occurred. Then in Lamentations, Jeremiah, weeps over his nation and for God to return His blessings to Israel. 

Ezekiel begins with God making Himself unmistakably known to Ezekiel, while he’s exiled in Babylon. In this amazing encounter, God calls Ezekiel to proclaim His words to the Israelites, even though they are a “rebellious” people and He knows many of them will refuse to listen. (God repeats this statement 6 times in chapter 2, which is only 10 verses long!!)
 
After his first encounter with God, Ezekiel is overwhelmed. He goes into hiding for 7 days, before God speaks to him again…
At the end of the seven days, the word of the Lord, came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. (Ezekiel 3:16-19)
 
In ancient Near Eastern culture the watchman was responsible for the safety of the community; his job was to warn people of impending danger. Any watchmen that failed in his duty was held personally responsible; and negligence resulting in loss of life was punishable by death.
 
As I read this verse I couldn’t help but get the feeling that God has provided all His children with this task to serve as watchmen in our communities. It’s our duty to share God’s love with the people we work with, go to school with, ride the train with, and/or live with. He’s entrusted them to our care and whether or not they listen to us when we speak, He’s still called us to open our mouths and proclaim His Truth.
 
However, just as God told Ezekiel in Ezekiel 4:26-27–“I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, though they are a rebellious house. But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.”–we are only to speak when told to do so by the Holy Spirit.
 
Therefore, remain diligent, always listening for the prompting of the Holy Spirit, for He’ll direct us when to speak and when to remain silent…usually with a quickening  in our Spirit and passion in our hearts.