It’s been almost a year since we started this series about Christianity in the 10/40 Window. More than half of the world’s population lives in that 10/40 Window, but only a small minority are Christians.
Many of those Christians are suffering greatly for their faith in Jesus Christ. A friend in India wrote me about the suffering of Christians in the state of Odisha. The vast majority of the more than 48 million people living in Odisha are Hindu. Christians are a small and often persecuted minority. Many have been physically attacked and removed from their homes. Many churches have been destroyed. Here is a recent news story about the persecution of Christians in Odisha from Persecution.org.
I am reminded that in the context of Christians demonstrating brotherly love, the writer of Hebrews wrote – “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Hebrews 13:3)
I asked my friend to write an article explaining how Hindu persecution is impacting our brothers and sisters in Odisha. We will also include a link to a special GoFundMe page that has been set up to help those who have lost their homes. As we read Brother Jehu’s article, let us remember what Hebrews says about remembering our brothers and sisters who are suffering for the Gospel of Christ.
True Disciples of Christ Do Not Deny Him
by Jehu L., HopeGiving Foundation
If I asked you to get a piece of paper and something to write with and to make a numerical list of all the things that you would be willing to die for? What would those be?
I have asked this question to some of my friends and you know how they answered? They told me genuinely that they would be willing to die for their children, family members, country and land. I understand because people in the past have actually died for family members and for the freedom of one’s own country.
My friends, what you would be willing to die for? The answer to this question shows what is your highest priority in life. And also, it shows what you are living for.
If we read the Bible, Jesus answers what must be our highest priority for which we must be willing to give up everything.
Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Here Jesus is demanding that if we want to follow Him, we must be ready to give up anything and everything for Him. In other words, Jesus demands that you should be willing to die for Him. We cannot be like the general crowd who listens to Jesus’ teaching and then go back and live the way we used to live. To be Christ’s follower means being willing to give up and deny everything that comes in the way of Christ. It might be your family, friends, land, social status.
I come from Odisha. Christians face persecution here from time to time. You may have heard the story of Graham Stein who along with his two sons, Timothy (aged 6) and Philip (aged 10), were burned to death by Hindu extremists in 1999. Another major event was Kandhamal violence in 2008. In this violence many Christians were killed and thousands of houses were burned by Hindu fundamentalists.
Similar incidents happened recently in Odisha, in my area. Let me share a true story with you. A man named Rinku (named is changed) encountered the Gospel for the first time at Sikarpai village in Odisha, India and began to trust in Christ. As a result of knowing Christ his life is changed, so he goes ahead and shares the same Gospel with the other villagers. Eventually, twelve more families began to follow Jesus Christ. Little did they know what would be the cost of following Jesus Christ in their own village.
As they continued to follow Christ as a small group and started to meet in their small houses for prayer, the Hindu extremists noticed they were not worshiping any idols and not going to the temples which they did before. Instead, they noticed that these Christians were worshiping Christ.
So, the extremists were not happy about these changes. They warned Christians to deny Christ and stop following this foreign religion. But the Christians did not care and continued to follow Christ. As a result of this some fundamentalists got angry and started to persecute them and harass them verbally. They beat up Christians physically from time to time in different places. The Christian families bore these beatings and did not back down from worshiping Christ. The extremists decided not to give them any access to the pump piped water. And also, they excluded Christians from participating in any social activities. Eventually, this hatred led some of the Hindu extremists to abuse a few Christian girls physically and verbally in the village. So, the girls’ families went to the police station to report the event. The police went to the spot to inquire about it and returned to the station. Once the police were gone, the Hindu fundamentalists became more furious towards the Christians families and accused them for reporting the event to the police. The extremists spread false information against the Christians and gathered more Hindu fundamentalists from the surrounding villagers. So, a huge mob of Hindutva supporters came forward and removed the tiles of their houses, destroyed the doors and then beat them up and finally expelled them from the village. So, the Christian families left their own houses, land and village and went to live in a jungle.
What can we learn from these followers of Christ?
True followers of Christ don’t deny Him even if they experience the cross because their highest priority is Jesus Christ. These followers in Odisha gave up their land, houses and livelihood to follow Christ. They said no to the Hindu extremists, no to worldly security for the sake of Christ. They carried their cross to follow Him.
They are not ashamed to identify themselves with Christ. They are ready to leave everything for Christ. They are now living in a jungle without proper water, and essential items and houses. They have taken their cross to follow Jesus because they know the words of Jesus in Luke 9:24, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Are we ready to live and die for Christ? Are we ready to give up everything that comes in the way of Christ? Is Jesus Christ our highest priority? Let us remember that even if we lose our life or anything for the sake of Christ, God will save it.
My brothers and sisters, please pray for these disciples. They are in need of many things. I would definitely encourage you to help them and pray for them in whatever way possible. It’s my prayer that we can be true disciples of Christ and ready to deny anything and take up our cross for the sake of Christ.
Thank you, Jehu. The Christians of Odisha need our help and those of us who live in the United States and other countries have the financial means to do that. I know Jehu and the people behind the GoFundMe fundraiser personally. We pray you will consider helping.
GoFundMe Fundraiser for Persecuted Christians in Odisha
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