Making a faithful confession
The world is starting to perk up its ears. Reports of Christians fleeing cities in Iraq; pictures of Islamic militants marking the doors of the faithful as a sign that they must leave or be killed; stories of men being killed, women raped, children beheaded: All are now in the news … and all are for the sake of Christ.
We mourn. We pray. And yet we wonder, “What can I do? What does this matter to me?”
- Repent. There may well come a day when we face the same suffering that has befallen the Christians in Iraq. And so we learn from them, pray for them and repent for our own lack of faith, for our confidence in passing, transitory things rather than in the holy things of God (2 Thessalonians 1).
- Remember. Persecution reminds us that the world is not our friend and it is not our home. We are neither Iraqi Christians nor American Christians. We are simply Christians, citizens of a better land, a different kind of country, of heaven itself (1 Peter 2:11).
- Ready. We are called to vigilance because we know that faithfulness and persecution go hand-in-hand. We prepare now; we do not wait. We have Scriptures to learn, catechisms to study and hymns to memorize so that — if God in His infinite wisdom allows this suffering to befall us, too, one day — we are emboldened by the Word of God, which is in our hearts and on our lips (Rom. 10:9ff).
- Rejoice. On Aug. 10, the Church remembers St. Lawrence, who kept and distributed the church’s goods and alms. When the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the church’s treasury, Lawrence made a faithful confession, showing the prefect the widowed and orphaned, the blind and lame, saying, “These are the treasures of the Church.” For his fidelity, Lawrence was burned — roasted alive — over a gridiron, cheerfully remarking after some time, “It is well done. Turn me over” (1 Peter 1:3–8).
That is the kind of confidence with which we enter the days ahead, the times of persecution that we know are coming, that are here even now. We face Satan’s attacks and threats head-on, look them square in the eye, because we have been marked — just like the Christians in Iraq — with the sign of the holy cross on our foreheads and on our hearts in the waters of Baptism. In that gift, Christ promised us eternal life, salvation, comfort, mercy, even joy with Him, despite what the world and all its evil send our way. And He always makes good on His promises.
So let us pray and endure, trusting that, like the apostles and the martyrs and the saints before us, our Lord will preserve us too, suffering much but never letting us fall away. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted so ruthlessly in Iraq. And then join with me in reading our Bibles, singing the Church’s hymns, praying its catechism, so that we, too, may make a faithful confession, for “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32).
Let me also note that many of you are asking where you may give to support persecuted Christians. The LCMS is providing funds for those in deep need. This type of work is quite delicate because of our mission and mercy presence in many non-Christian countries. We in no way wish to heighten the risk to our faithful workers. Our reporting on the use of funds in this area will be muted for obvious reasons (2 Corinthians 8–9).
Our new Fund to Aid Christians Under Persecution is a response by the LCMS to impact our brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing death or persecution, primarily in countries where the LCMS does not have an international mission presence through official missionaries and other LCMS or partner church personnel. Donations made to the fund will be bundled into one or more grants that will be disbursed through appropriate* nonprofit human-care and relief agencies. That fund is a restricted account, kept separate from other designated funds, in order to facilitate financial management, reporting and auditing.
May God grant peace for Jesus’ sake.
P.S. Here are a few more resources I hope you’ll find helpful.
- Download the free June/July issue of The Lutheran Witness, courtesy of Concordia Publishing House.
- Pray: Merciful and holy Father, remember in Your unfailing love those who suffer now for the name of Christ. Strengthen them for a good confession, and uphold them by Your Spirit. Look in Your mercy on all who are entrusted with civil authority here and in all places throughout the world. Make them bold to stand against and fight every injustice. Especially bring to an end this widespread destruction of the fundamental human right to worship freely, according to the dictates of conscience. “Grant peace, we pray, in mercy, Lord; Peace in our time, O send us! For there is none on earth but You, None other to defend us. You only, Lord, can fight for us. Amen” (LSB 778). In Jesus’ holy and precious name we beg it. Amen!
*Grant-recipient agencies that have been vetted to determine their capacity for getting aid into parts of the world the LCMS cannot reach directly and in ways that do not conflict with or subvert the Christian faith as articulated in Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is the current and 13th president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.