“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Reference: Psalms 66:10-12 )
The Psalms of Lamentation are great. If you have expressed that level of suffering and persecution you feel like some is taking the feelings in your heart, soul, and spirit, and is putting words to it so that you can express all the feelings and emotions that have gotten stopped up in your throat and mind. If you have not had that level and type of suffering and persecution, you can rejoice that you have not – but that if you had, God would be there with you just like the Divine was there with them.
We who are modern day believers are hard pressed to know and understand what it was like to be persecuted to death for our faith. It is not heard of often now, but it has happened throughout Christian history. The saddest thing is that sometimes it was the Christians who were doing the persecuting. When one faith does not respect and accept that others believe and practice their faith differently, persecution often results. Such persecution was part of the faith story of the historic Anabaptists, and is the faith story of others.
Another story from Reading the Anabaptist Bible . Adrian Corneliss was arrested with two fellow believers of the faith at Leyden, and they were burned alive for that faith. Adrian wrote the following from prison: “Lord, teach us to pray according to Thy will, that we may pray in spirit and in truth, that we may truly call Thee Father. . . . Grant us therefore to be partakers of the Word which declares: “These are they who have not loved their life, but have delivered
it into death; for those that are slain by men have a better hope to expect from God, namely, that they shall be raised again; for Thou provest Thy chosen; Thou triest them as gold in the furnace, and Thou receivest them as an offering of burnt sacrifice.” Ps. 66:10. Lord, now let Thy servant depart in peace. Holy Father, sanctify Thy Son, that I may be found unblamable at Thy appearing. Keep me, Holy Father for Thy holy name’s sake. Amen.”
I sometimes wonder, beloved, if I could endure such persecution. I think though that we “glamorize” such suffering, if I can use that term. What I mean is that we think such suffering is beyond us, both in our reality and in our capabilities. And because we place it so far from us, we do not see how we are already standing up for our faith. We may not be burned alive or whipped or flogged or any of the other tortures that humanity has devised to use against humanity. But remaining within God’s plan and resisting the temptations and lures that the world spreads out before us can be just as hard to endure.
Remember that the historic Anabaptists only changed their inner beliefs. Their outer reality, the way they lived their lives, what they worked at etc did not change. Now there are so many ways we could live “wrong” that living right requires skill and care everyday. We face temptations that our spiritual ancestors never dreamed of. Moreover, because there is a large diversity in faith beliefs, it is easy to “persecute” each other without having to resort to physical action. No beloved, we are tested too in living out our daily lives. How will you beloved withstand the testing? Will you be refined to pure metal? In the societal “prisons” of this world how will you cope? How will you bear the burdens placed on you? Being trod on, scorched, and flooded – how will you manage? Keep us, Holy God, for Thy Holy Name’s sake.
May this be our prayer, especially this day, Transfiguration Sunday, when we remember that God of Moses & Elijah is our God also. And that Christ, God’s son was sent to us in order that we might be made worthy through trial and testing. Selah!