Remembering "Normal" Christianity

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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

Prison. That is a scary word. A foreign word to most of us. Prison conjures images of darkness, hopelessness, despair. A place of hardened criminals and unspeakable crimes. Of unpardonable sin. 

For some of us, prison is a form of justice. A place where people go that need to be kept away from the outside world. A place where criminals who have wreaked havoc on our families and loved ones and communities finally receive what they deserve. Where murderers, thieves, sexual predators, rapists, and drug dealers make their residence.

But what about the innocent? 

The people who are thrown into jail...for their faith?
For standing up for what they believe in?
For ministering to those who have no hope?
For loving the broken?

We forget about these people. We forget that all around the proclaim the name of Jesus is a death sentence. That those who decide to follow Him are often turned in, falsely accused of crimes, tortured, and imprisoned. Even more unthinkable...they are often turned in by family members, community members, & friends. 

For most of us, proclaiming our faith is as easy as posting a moving lyric from a Christian song on facebook. By setting our "religion" on facebook to "Christian." It's so easy, we don't even think twice about it. We don't have to decide if we are okay with losing everything and everyone dear to us, possibly our own lives, by following Christ.

People around the world are having to consciously make that choice everyday.

...and this is normal Christianity, according to the Bible. The church in the book of Acts is a very real reality all around the world. Look at the countless numbers of people in the Bible who were killed, imprisoned, and tortured for their faith. Look at the things Jesus taught us about following Him...that it would cost us everything. In fact, He promises us that we will experience persecution, hardships, and all kinds of false accusations. He promises that the world will hate us. That believing in Him would divide families and loved ones.

So do not forget these people. Do not forget your Christian brothers and sisters who are in prison. Do not forget about those who are fulfilling the Great Commission, no matter the cost. Do not forget those who are suffering. Who are purposely being subjugated to every kind of ill treatment- starvation, isolation, beatings- so that they will shut up about this man that they claim has an indescribable and saving love for His people who will accept it, even those who imprisoned them. For those brothers and sisters who are suffering all kinds of cruelties...but love those who are torturing them anyway. Who are ministering to their jailers in the midst of their beatings.

Most of us clearly cannot begin to relate to this measure of sacrifice in our faith. We live in a culture, praise the Lord, of free speech. We are allowed to choose our beliefs. To worship freely. 
...But this doesn't give us an excuse to forget. To close our eyes and cover our ears because these stories are hard to swallow...and often challenge the depth of our own faith. At the end of the day, we may not be thrown in jail for our faith- but we can remember those who are.

What we can do:
1) Pray. Stand alongside these prisoners in your prayers. As Hebrews states, REMEMBER.
2) Check out This is an AMAZING site with stories of those imprisoned and dying for their faith around the world. This site also allows you to write letters of encouragement to those imprisoned for their faith, and to write letters to government officials on their behalf. You can also subscribe to prisoner updates.