This week I, along with many others, read with horror the story of North Korean people who were executed by firing squad for possessing a Bible. It turns out that the Kim regime thinks this book is dangerous, that it could displace Kim-worship with something else and could eventually lead to rebellion.
So, as it was reported, Christians were publicly executed along with other enemies of the Kim regime. More than 10,000 spectators were forced to watch this gruesome event.
Of course, there are many areas of the world where Christians suffer because of their faith. But when I hear a report like this one, I can't help but wonder about our own, rather complacent form of North American Christianity. And I also get just a little more than irate when I hear North American Christians speak about "persecution" as being mocked in the workplace or some other public arena because of their faith.
The fact is, most of us don't have a clue what persecution is. Worse yet, I doubt many in our congregations could bear up under the sort of severe persecution suffered in many parts of the world.
We don't think twice about owning a Bible. My own family probably has more than 10 Bibles in the house. And we rarely think about this book, this Word, as subversive. Perhaps because we have so domesticated the stories of God's work in the world that we barely even notice that the call to discipleship is, as Karl Barth wrote, a call to die. But look at the folks we think of as heroes: Abraham, David, Mary, Ruth, Paul, to name a few. Not exactly easy lives.
Perhaps in the coming weeks as we read our Bibles, let's acknowledge the fact that in many areas of the world, these "wonderful words of life," are also deadly words. And then follow that recognition by praying for the safety and religious freedom of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.