Pain in the Body: A Christian’s Response to Persecution Within the Body of Christ

Last night, I stood ironing my pants for work, only something was wrong with my iron. It wasn’t heating right. It’s no surprise really. I’m probably overdue for a new one. I fiddled with the cord to see if I could get one more pair of pants ironed before I gave up the task. I was having a hard time focusing on the task anyway. I was having a hard time caring if my pants were ironed or not. It seemed such a trivial thing to care about… considering.

You see, I feel a deep ache. It’s hard to concentrate on anything when you feel an ache somewhere in your body. It doesn’t matter if it’s a backache or a hang nail. If there is a disturbance in the body, it’s hard to focus on anything.

Yet the ache I feel isn’t in my own body. The ache I feel is within the body of Christ. Now I know that horrific things happen every day, but the frequency of horror seems to be on the rise. And the attacks on the body of Christ are most certainly becoming more common and completely intentional. Not since the days of Nero, dipping Christians in wax and setting them on fire to light his gardens, has such evil befallen believers in such great numbers.

I told my husband about my difficulty in focusing on anything. I told him that I was distracted by the events taking place in Iraq. Christians are being driven out of their homes. Those that don’t flee or renounce their faith are put to death. Men are being hung, women raped and killed, their children beheaded and their heads put on poles in the city to strike terror in the ones who are left. I would be terrified.

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The ones who make it out alive now face desperate conditions in the mountains. No food, no water. Fear of death. There are reports of parents pushing their children off cliffs to keep them from a worse fate. I cannot imagine what would cause me to do that. Only an evil as horrible as the one pursuing them, I suppose.

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I wring my hands wanting to do something. I want someone to do something. My husband reminded me that there is precious little I can do. He’s trying to relieve my burden, but it won’t go. It is my burden, given to me, I believe, because I am part of the body of Christ, and when one part is hurting, the whole body hurts.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul gives me comfort and direction. We are supposed to share in the sufferings of fellow believers. This dull pain I feel is normal. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

He goes on to tell us exactly how we can assist those who are in such dire circumstances.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

There is little I or anyone else can really do to help the suffering of these Christians in Iraq (and other places around the globe). So where do we turn when there is nowhere else to turn?

We turn to God. We set our hope in him.

I believe enough in the sovereignty of God that while I do not understand the suffering of those precious people, I do know that God will use it to draw people to him. People that under any other circumstance might not ever call upon his name.

And Paul tells me there actually is something real that I can do. We can pray for “gracious favor” for those now suffering at the hands of the evil one. They will be helped by our prayers.

Will you pray with me? Will you commit to pray often? Do you feel the pain within the body, too? If you do, the burden is there so that you will pray. I believe that with my whole heart. There is little else I personally, and probably you too, can really do. The Bible also tells us that the prayers righteous people have a great effect. (James 5:16) There is power in prayer. It’s not our last resort; it’s our first and best response!

I recently heard someone say that when we pray for God to move, we should ask the Lord to release the angels of heaven. I like the mental picture in my mind of angels standing on the edge of heaven, ready to intervene, waiting on the Lord to say, “Go!”

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That’s my prayer. Will you pray, too? Will you ask the Lord to release the angels of heaven? We cannot turn a blind eye and pretend this isn’t happening. It’s happening, and it’s happening to us, to our very own body.