What would it look like to follow the Great Commission without freedom?
As those of us in the United States celebrate Independence Day today, it may be difficult to imagine that. How would we “go and make disciples” if our government made it illegal?
Would we disobey? Go in secret?
Those are questions facing our brothers and sisters in the Wesleyan Methodist family in Russia.
Evangelism may become illegal. No email invitations to church. No gatherings in private homes to talk about issues of faith – unless you are a part of the Russian Orthodox church.
I was in Vladivostok a few months ago. We’re a tiny but vibrant family in Russia, consistently made to feel illegitimate by a Russian government intent on marginalizing all Christians beyond the bounds of Russian Orthodoxy. One of the most poignant moments in my teaching came with the simple affirmation that these brothers and sisters are an important part of the body of Christ – that they are valuable members of God’s kingdom: simple words that brought tears to the eyes of many.
In the U.S. today, we’re celebrating freedom. We have quite a bit of it and should be very grateful.
Currently, though, it can sometimes feel as though our freedom, particularly our freedom of religion, is slowly eroding, or at least the boundaries are becoming much more difficult to discern.
Yet we’re not prohibited from worshiping, from evangelizing, from sharing our faith with those we care about or passing it to our children.
In Russia laws enacted under Josef Stalin in 1929 remain on the books. Teaching children about God is illegal. Sunday schools are prohibited. Parents break the law when they teach their children about God even in their own homes. The proposed new laws make things even worse with surveillance measures and the possibility of mass persecution for violation.
As we in the U.S. thank God for our freedom, pray for our brothers and sisters in Russia. Pray that they will not be forced to carry out the Great Commission in secret. Pray that they will be able to raise their children in faith without fear of reprisal and freely talk to their neighbors and friends about Jesus. Pray that they might know their importance to the kingdom of God and the vital part they play in the body of Christ.