Having experienced the presence and forgiveness of God prepares a person to forgive others and be a gracious influence in their lives. Gracia Burnham, along with her husband Martin, were abducted and held by Marxist guerillas in the Philippines. They were in captivity for a year. Martin lost his life in a rescue attempt by government forces. Gracia described Martin’s attitude and spirit during those days in the following terms:
“Martin gave evidence of what I might term the Jesus Syndrome: to walk through the midst of a cruel situation with poise and self-control, saying only what would edify and build-up. He was able somehow to bless those who meant us harm—not just a verbal pleasantry (the quick “God bless you…”) but in real and practical terms that left a lasting impact” (To Fly Again).
The point is clear that, as Christians, we cannot love the systems that perpetuate pain and evil but we can love our persecutors, as persons with eternal souls. We may not be able to change the system but we can be used to win that person to Christ and remove them from the domination of the evil system in which they are caught. Richard Wurmbrand writes that the Christians who have been in Communist prisons don’t have the smell of bitterness against Communists like the three Hebrew children who were delivered from the fiery furnace did not have the smell of fire or smoke in them (Tortured for Christ, 63). In spite of the rise of Islamic extremism, Communists are still the main persecutors of Christians in the world.
Such a spirit or attitude is so radically different than what the world experiences that it can be used by God to bring them around to considering Christ. The life transformed by Christ and is Christ-like is a powerful tool for winning people to Christ. Richard Wurmbrand said that “to believe in Christ is not such a great thing. To become like him is truly great” (In God’s Underground, 135).
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.