“So what church do you go to then?” 

The standard question of the Christian.  When we go to church we join usually with a local community of fellow Christians, we have a nice time together (hopefully), worship God, learn about God, share with one another and pray for each other.  It’s nice.

Most of us will be well aware though that the Church (capital C people) is the Body of Christ – the family of Christians wherever they/we are in the world, united together with Jesus as the main man (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). 

Part 4 of our Change It Up series, based on the book Jars of Clay (buy it), looks at how our understanding of church is challenged when we look at it through the lens of persecution. 

The Apostle Paul encouraged the community of believers in Hebrews, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3.  He wrote this to encourage them in their faith as a community and to remind them that part of Christian discipleship is to engage with persecution. We can learn, as one body, from the experience of persecution, whether it physically happens to us or not. Persecution of the Church means persecution of all of us, wherever we are and whatever we did at church this week.

And so, as one body, we are to love one another: “Love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35.  Paul was anxious to get to the persecuted community in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2) that he had nurtured and when he wasn’t able to go he sent his friend and co-worker Timothy in his place.  Paul was desperate to show his love and care for the persecuted and when Timothy returned from Thessalonica with good news, Paul is clearly encouraged: “…in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.  For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 3: 8. 

We can be encouraged to hear the witness of our persecuted sisters and brothers as they stand firm in affliction.  We as one body, the Church, learn from persecution and grow in love for one another.

One of the most powerful testimonies I’ve heard is the story of Sarah Ambetsa from Kenya.  Her faithfulness to God in the midst of horror is a constant reminder to me that God is at work through His grace in His people; when I join with her as a member of the one body, the Church, that we are both part of, I connect with persecution, I seek to learn more about who God is and what He calls me to, and I seek to love Sarah and others like her.  Please watch her talk about her story here and get ready to Change It Up…

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– Alexandra