Brotherly Love for the Persecuted Church
Pastor Tom Ascol, using Hebrews 13:3 as his basis, presents a message entitled “Brotherly Love for Persecuted Christians.” Our insulated life in western civilization has desensitized us to the struggles of Christian brethren across the globe, particularly those suffering persecution. Yet we have an obligation to be aware of, to pray for, to offer support where possible to, those suffering the horrors being perpetuated on Christians globally.
Setting the context for Heb 13:3 requires looking at verses 1 and 2. The author of Hebrews encourages brotherly love amongst believers. Two ways to do this are with hospitality (v. 2) and remembering those in prison (v. 3). Verse 3 also calls believers to remember those being mistreated, that is persecuted. “Remember” in this passage implies much more than mere recollection; it includes a willingness to respond appropriately, to express and react compassionately.
The biblical text shows at least three ways to be mindful of our brothers and sisters. First, we are to be mindful of their situation. Imprisonment in persecuting countries is not so different from imprisonment experienced in early church history. Unlike modern American prisons, Roman prisons, as well as today’s prisons in many persecuting societies, lacked for food and basic necessities. Often a prisoner’s life depended on those outside prison who were willing to minister to the prisoner. Furthermore, being a prisoner impacts that prisoner’s family. The church ought to rise to the challenge of support for its own. They, after all, belong to the same Savior and Master. It is not only the imprisoned, however, that need support. Those who are mistreated because they are living their Christin faith also deserve support. American Christians need only look to recent events to see this mistreatment in our society.
Pastor Ascol suggests several ways we can be compassionately mindful of these sufferers. Despite prison being a place of shame, we ought to esteem our brethren in their sufferings. They, as with apostles and the many in “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” considered it joy to be worthy to suffer for the Name, for Jesus. We should practically express compassion, assisting when possible. We should fervently, thankfully, and consistently offer prayer for them.
Second, believers should be mindful of our unity with these suffering saints. We are parts of the same body, the Body of Christ, the communion of saints. The Bible teaches when one member suffers all suffer. Finally, we are to be mindful of our own frailty. Suffering, persecution, is a possibility for us as long as we remain in the body (v. 3). While we need not seek persecution we ought to be cognizant of the tenuous cords by which our freedoms hang. Imagine if all of a sudden we are the persecuted looking back on our failure to help those persecuted before us. It becomes a call to action.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was well acquainted with suffering and grief. His suffering was done on our behalf. Jesus’ substitutionary suffering for us provides a way to salvation, a salvation that may bring suffering but also brings reward beyond measure. This reward is available by coming to Jesus.