Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. - Mark 14:44-46
The Voice of the Martyr’s magazine sits on the arm of my chair. On the cover, Vietnamese believers hunch over the Bible with flashlights. The walls are dark and gray. Their seats aren’t pews or chairs, and their church isn’t some big cathedral. It’s an underground church. Next to this magazine is a book called, “Tortured for Christ,” by Reverend Richard Wurmbrand. Wurmbrand was turned in by an associate to the Communists and spent a torturous eight and a half years in prison. What caught my eye were the words, “an associate turned him in.” How can a church member turn on another church member?
I realized, of course, it’s easy to do. We do it all the time in a country where free people don’t have to hide their beliefs. C.S. Lewis has a quote that pertains to justification. It is from God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology):
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
I wonder if the associate who turned in Wurmbrand disagreed with how the underground church was run? Was that his justification? Of course, this wasn’t Wurmbrand’s first experience with torture. During World War II, he and his wife attempted to evangelize the occupying soldiers. Wurmbrand and his wife were beaten numerous times. They were trustworthy church leaders, but in World War II, not all pastors or reverands were safe.
In Russia, a pastor turned in his Jewish friends to be shot, tortured, and imprisoned in Russia’s own Holocaust. That pastor escaped prosecution with little or no consequences to his actions years after World War II ended. In occupied Europe and in Germany and Russia, many people turned in their Jewish neighbors for less. In one instance, the people living next door to a Jewish person envied what that Jewish person owned. They turned him in and took over his apartments, stealing his rich furnishings. The warnings of our past history are ignored. If it can happen to Jews, it can happen to Christians. Christian persecution is very real today. It’s not something that happened in the past, or made up to make Christians a more sympathetic people group. People who say this purposely turn a blind eye to the truth.
I’m not done reading Reverand Richard Wurmbrand’s book. I’ve just begun. Several other books have amazed me with what God is doing in closed countries, but I am grieved by what I see in my country. According to George Barna, “American morality is no longer synonymous with Christian morality. The new agenda is about individual independence instead of issues threatening family or country.”
Many churches exist that do good work, whose people stand in solidarity against the secular world. But there are those in church who fall into C.S. Lewis’ version of tyranncy; they kiss their church friend on the cheek and let the soldiers come and take them away, like Jesus’ Judas. Only its not soldiers that come; just our own avarice and gossip, leaving that church friend out in the cold like an orphan. If we ever became a closed country, I have no doubt that tyranny will be the undoing of some underground churches not used to unifying together against a greater threat.
As I sit in my chair, I am watching Billy Graham’s, My Hope America. I am surrounded by access to God’s Word. I listen to stories of changed lives, but haven’t seen that lately. God is doing something in my life now, and I am waiting to see the outcome. I am learning to be brave, to act and speak, and to live in God’s purpose; build His kingdom, not mine. While I sit here, children and widows in India starve, underground churches in closed countries meet in spite of the danger of death or imprisonment, and I know I am blessed. In many ways, I think American churches have it hard, too. We don’t go hungry, but our job is harder to reach the unsaved because prosperity has made them comfortable or entitlement has made it easy to stay unchanged. They don’t feel they need God. Individually, I think as a Christian we are in danger of falling into a rut. We could get too comfortable in that rut, and blind, be unable to see the damage of our inaction to ourselves and to the people we could have impacted for Christ.
So when you go to church ask yourself as I will, “Am I making decisions for someone because I think its in their best interest without knowing the harm it causes? Am I choosing my words with care so as to empower someone to go forward in Christ or are my words truth devoid of love or a lie to manipulate someone to go our way? Would I give a Judas kiss to someone, and turn around to speak against them?”
That last should sting. Because how many times have I given a Judas kiss, and in my ignorance and blindness of the moment, became an enemy? James says the tongue is evil.
Romans 7:15 says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
If, God forbid, our country becomes closed to Christianity, I pray for myself and for other Christians that the temptation to turn in a church member in the heat of the moment never comes, and that if it does, we pay careful attention to our consciousness, the Word, and to history. As Billy Graham says, “I’ve not given my life to a dead Christ, but to a live Christ!”
Have you ever forgotten, while you were attending church, why you were put on this earth and why you became a believer?