“Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
Abbas* sits nearby, his eyes on his Arabic translation of Ephesians 2. The music behind us is thrumming, but we both treat it as background noise. Suddenly the tempo changes, the music takes on a middle eastern flair. His eyes shoot heavenward, then lock on me. “This is from my country!” he says. He stands, claps, sings with robust joy. I sing along, butchering the Arabic, I’m sure. But I sing because he is my brother, and this is his language, his form of worship.
Abbas suffered imprisonment several times, but his eyes weren’t the eyes of a prisoner. He ran a Christian radio station in a prominent city, praying 24/7 for the people in his country. All sorts of people called in, asked for prayer, and they prayed for them on the air. His family suffered for these audacious choices, but, they suffered willingly.
Abbas is my hero in so many ways. I met him at Cape Town 2010. I had prayed God would send a persecuted Christian my way, and He beautifully answered that prayer by placing this man at the table I hosted. When we parted, I felt like a part of my heart left with him.
Funny how his demeanor changes with the music. It’s as if he is now sharing a piece of himself with me, a beautiful, priceless piece. We then sing in English about God’s peace. During the song, the worship leaders ask us to give peace to each other, so we do. He is the first to grab my hand. “The peace of the Lord with you,” he says. He, a man from the Middle East, wishing me, a white American, peace. It touched me so deeply that he would open his heart in such a beautiful way to me.
Jesus trumps it all, doesn’t He? Aren’t we all brothers and sisters? Why do we allow for geographical boundaries to artificially separate us?
Later we watch a Palestinian Christian woman say about her Jewish neighbors, “Jesus gives me the power to embrace them. When I am with my messianic Jewish brothers and sisters, I feel like I am home. In the Messiah,” she says, “there is room for all of us.”
Next to her stands a Messianic Jewish man, sharing his heart for the Palestinians. A physical picture of the dividing wall between cultures torn down because of the love of Jesus.
But even more interesting and compelling is watching Abbas raise his camera to take a picture of this. He smiles, then snaps another picture. “Alleluia!” he declares. “Alleluia.”
In reflecting on Abbas, I can’t help but think that this world isn’t big enough for him. I will see him again on another shore, and he, because of his faithfulness, will shine like the Son he worshipped on earth. There, in that strange kingdom economy, those who were persecuted–a sea of people who have no great name on this earth–will be noticed, recognized. But why not reverse that trend on earth’s soil? Why not help our brothers and sisters around the world who suffer today because they will not deny Jesus Christ?
As I think about Jesus, Himself an alien on this earth and the ultimate martyr, my heart wants to put feet to my love for Abbas. I’m grateful for Samaritan’s Purse who actively work with persecuted believers. And as the frenzy of the season actively tries to woo my heart away from weighty matters like this, I stop and give some of our resources to help the unnoticed ones.
You can too. Here’s what Samaritan’s Purse does with a donation via their Christmas Gift Catalog:
- They provide emergency relief—food, water, and shelter—along with spiritual comfort to suffering believers in multiple countries.
- They meet the needs of courageous believers who have lost their homes or jobs because of their faith.
- In Niger, where churches were razed to the ground in a frenzy of persecution, Samaritan’s Purse repaired and rebuilt the sanctuaries.
If your family wants to celebrate the advent of Jesus in an unusual and purposeful way, consider giving in a way that helps brothers and sisters who suffer for their faith in Him. Just click the button below to give.
*Not his real name