Tuesday, November 2, 2010

FW: Tortured for Christ

Difficult, but necessary reading…


Feed: Father Hollywood
Posted on: Tuesday, November 02, 2010 8:42 AM
Author: Father Hollywood
Subject: Tortured for Christ


There are some books that ought to be a regular read and re-read for Christians - especially for those in the holy ministry or in the lay leadership of the church.  I just finished reading Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, and I believe this 1967 classic is in this category.

The book is a short read, and introduces the reader to a phenomenon known as the Underground Church as it existed behind the Iron Curtain in Russia and in Eastern Europe from about the second world war to the 1960s.  The story is told eloquently and passionately by the Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian Lutheran pastor who was arrested twice, spent a total of 14 years in Communist prisons, three of which were in solitary confinement, including a couple years in "the death room."  He was tortured and beaten, although he does not wallow in this fact nor provide gratuitous details of his agonies.  His heroic wife Sabina was also a leader of the Christian resistance and was also imprisoned and tortured.

Five years into a 25-year prison sentence (his second imprisonment for preaching the Gospel), Pastor Wurmbrand and his family were ransomed out of the Iron Curtain by Scandinavian Lutherans for a sum of $10,000.  He was called upon to put the word out in the west about the Communist oppression, especially of imprisoned Christians.  Tortured for Christ was the first installment of that vocation.

One might be tempted to see the book as dated or obsolete because of the fall of the Iron Curtain.  And that assumption would be wrong.  For Christianity always labors under the cross - whether in repressed Islamic regimes, in civil-war torn African villages, in still-Communist China, or even in materially comfortable North American suburbs or "enlightened" European democracies.  As long as the church militant endures and proclaims the Gospel, she will be oppressed and persecuted.

Wurmbrand teaches us how to live in such conditions, how to love as Christ loves, how to be resourceful and faithful, and how to remain steadfast even in the face of torture and death.

The book is not dour or depressing - far from it.  It offers hope and joy even in terrible conditions.  In these pages, the love and light of Christ shines forth in the darkness of Atheism, Communism, and materialism.  Again and again, Wurmbrand testifies to conversions even among the secret police and Communist officials - who were as victimized as the Christians in the slave labor camps.  It is one of those books that puts things into perspective - especially for us in the United States, where we spend far too much time complaining about trivialities and not enough time rejoicing in what we have and sharing with those who do not.

And although the Iron Curtain has fallen and Communism has failed in Eastern Europe and Russia, the people in those regions continue to struggle with the resulting social, economic, political, and even spiritual devastation of that evil system of government: poverty, alcoholism, biblical illiteracy, struggling churches, a dearth of Bibles and educational resources, a continued culture of hopelessness and death, and lingering attitudes of hatred toward the church.

And yet, even from the ruins, the Church rises just as green shoots appear from the frozen ground every spring.  The grandchildren of those condemned to Siberia are now condemning sin, death, and the devil by joining together as the Body of Christ in the most extraordinary conditions imaginable.  Like the Roman Empire before it, the Soviet Empire has not only been endured, but actually defeated, by the Christian Church.  And though the USSR can claim "victory" over the millions of people it wiped out, the USSR is today dead and buried in shame, while those who have been redeemed by Christ - those "saints who from their labors rest" - are the living ones singing the praise of the Lamb on His throne.

Wurmbrand's book provides a helpful backdrop to the trials and travails of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are even today picking up the broken pieces in the wake of Communism's fall, and who are advancing the Gospel selflessly and courageously in the open even as Wurmbrand and his Underground Church did in secret a generation ago.

For more information, please see Voice of the Martyrs, the organization founded by Pastor Wurmbrand (and where you can also receive a free copy of Tortured for Christ).  Please also check out the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, who is providing much-needed support to those who are advancing the Gospel in Siberia.  You can also find footage of Pastor Wurmbrand on YouTube, where you can also find this extraordinary short film chronicling the truly miraculous work of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

And please keep our brothers and sisters around the world in your prayers!

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