Was I There?
Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies (13:3).
I’ve never experienced what it means to be opposed or persecuted for my religious beliefs. Without a doubt, I’m thankful that I live in a country where there’s both freedom and safety to practice my faith. Yet, in more than 50 countries around the world, no less than 200 million Christians are vigorously opposed and ruthlessly persecuted. Many thousands have died horrible deaths, simply because they loved Jesus.
The believers to whom Hebrews was written had suffered and were struggling to remain faithful amidst severe persecution. Encouraging them to keep their eyes on Jesus, the writer challenged them to endure and persevere in their public profession of Christ (hebrews 12:1-3).
He commended them for remaining faithful in the midst of terrible persecution—public ridicule, all their belongings confiscated, beatings, and imprisonment. Despite their severe suffering, these believers had joy! “You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. . . . Remember the great reward it brings you!” (10:34-35). What great promise and assurance!
Writing from the comfort and safety of my office in Singapore, I’m insulated and removed from persecution. So how should I respond to the sufferings of my fellow brothers and sisters? The author tells us to enter into their experience. “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies” (13:3).
Each year in November, Christians around the world are reminded to pray for the persecuted church—to feel the pain of those who’ve been imprisoned or suffered for the cause of Christ. Today let’s pray earnestly for their safety and deliverance, strength, perseverance, and boldness to stand firmly for Jesus (acts 12:5; eph. 6:18-20; heb. 13:18; phil. 1:19).
Besides praying, what else can you do for your fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering because they love Jesus? How does God use persecution to purify His people?