What do you do when your freedom of worship is severely suppressed by the government in your country? It is unthinkable in a free land such as ours. But in other parts of the world, religious freedom is being suppressed including Russia which has just recently passed a new law causing grave concern among Christians there.
I subscribe to an online newsletter by Christadelphian Ministries called Carelinks based out of the United Kingdom which publishes news of their mission work in various countries around the world. In their last newsletter came this disturbing report:
The brotherhood here has suffered the hardest blow since our work began here in the late 1980s. We recently asked for your prayers regarding new religious laws which were being considered, and we have to tell you that they now have been passed into law. They are draconian, allowing no religious activity of any kind outside the Russian Orthodox Church or the few registered religious groups. All Christian literature is to be registered and approved. To quote: “The new law will require any sharing of the Christian faith – even a casual conversation – to have prior authorisation from the state. This includes something as basic as an emailed invitation for a friend to attend church. Even in a private home, worship and prayer will only be allowed if there are no unbelievers present. Churches will also be held accountable for the activities of their members. So if, for example, a church member mentions their faith in conversation with a work colleague, not only the church member but also the church itself could be punished, with individuals facing fines of up to 50,000 roubles (£580; USD770; €700). There are also restrictions on the extent to which churches can have contact with foreigners; for example, any non-Russian citizen attending a church service would be required to have a work visa or face a fine and expulsion from Russia”- taken from https://barnabasfund.org/news/Putin-Signs-Draconian-Anti-Christian-Provisions-into-Law
Basically, one can only be a practicing, preaching Christian if they attend a state church like the Orthodox Church. We have produced more details about the legislation as a footnote to this report. The consequences for our brethren in Russia and our work there are going to be severe. It is really a return to the underground church situation in which we first began our work in Russia. Carelinks began as a prayer request system and we are still very much that- so please wherever you are, pray for this situation…
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEW LEGISLATION IN RUSSIA LINK TO
This latest development in Russia should cause all Christians, whether they live in free countries or not, to be gravely concerned. It is reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved of this new law which is to go into effect July 20 under the guise of “anti-terrorism” and will put stricter limits on missionary and evangelism activity.
One has to wonder how Christian groups like the Christadelphians can be rated as “terrorist” in nature. The Christadelphians, for example, are pacifists and known for opposing any form of violence according to their doctrines. They have been very successful over the last thirty-some years spreading the Good News to those living in Russia and bringing many to know Christ. Not one of their members have ever been reported to commit or attempt to commit terrorist activity.
If this new Russian law is allowed to continue, it’s obvious that this will probably drive many Christians “underground” just as Carelinks suggests. It could even lead the church to grow even more than it has in the past. The human longing for receiving the Good News that is found through Christ and in his Word is something that not even any government can suppress. No law can stop it; no president, prime minister, dictator, king or any other leader can prevent it. God’s Word will prevail as men and women seek its truth regardless of what government tries to do to suppress it.
God’s Word will always endure no matter what humanity does to keep it from being taught. Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The Apostle Peter wrote, “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:22-25). In the Old Testament, Isaiah the prophet recorded, “The word of our God stands forever,” (Isaiah 40:8). Even though leaders like Putin enact laws that are supposed to fight terrorism God knows the real reason behind their actions and he is not putin’ up with it in due time: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…” (Romans 1:18).
As Christians on this side of the globe who are free to worship freely, we need to pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in places like Russia. The Bible says to “pray for one another” (James 5:16) and “encourage one another,” (1 Thess. 5:11). And it’s also our duty to pray for those in authority, even those who are enemies of the Gospel, as Paul said, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,…” (2 Tim. 2:1-3). Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:44).
Prayer, encouragement, generous giving, and faith are vital for the work of the church to move forward especially in times like these. It was important in Bible days when the church was persecuted then and it’s just as important as persecution continues now. For we know that as the Day of the Lord gets closer, tribulation will be on the rise (read Matthew 24) and our faith will be tested. We could very well wake up one morning and hear that our government has suppressed our freedom of worship as an “anti-terrorist” measure. No doubt, there are some who would like to suppress all Christian activity because they believe it is a threat to society.
We already see our religious freedom eroding. According to The Atlantic,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is the first line of the first amendment in the United States Constitution; religious freedom was clearly a legal priority of the men who drafted the Bill of Rights. Yet, 225 years later, the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project has said the United States places a “moderate” level of restrictions on religious practice compared to the other countries in the world. According to Pew, the U.S. saw a marked increase in hostility toward religion starting in 2009, and this level remained consistent in the following years. For the entire report link to, http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/01/the-us-puts-moderate-restrictions-on-religious-freedom/283331/
As we prepare for the Lord’s soon return, we hold fast to the faith as we spread the Good News of Christ and the Kingdom here and around the world. We grow in grace and in the knowledge of God’s Word while we face the difficulties of our times. With our eyes looking upward we move onward enduring until the day of Christ’s triumphant return.
Enjoy this inspirational song by Sara Groves about the persecuted church:
Good News to YOU!