A Price to be Paid
The Shadow of Death, painted by William Holman Hunt in 1870-73, depicts a young Jesus working as a carpenter prior to his public ministry. He is stripped from the waist down with his arms outstretched, perhaps evaluating the measurements of some unknown object. We cannot see his mother’s face but one can easily imagine her horror as she looks up to see the shadow on the wall. In an age where crucifixion was commonplace there is no mistaking this terrible premonition.
Though Jesus’ mission and destiny were entirely unique and fixed, a foreboding shadow is cast over many who seek to follow Him in countries where doing so brings you into direct conflict with the regime.
In 1944 one million Russian troops invaded Romania and brought with them Communism,‘a nightmare that made suffering under the Nazis seem easy‘ according to Richard Wurmbrand, a Jewish man who was converted to Christ by a German carpenter. In turn he saw many Russian soldiers converted and together the new Christians secretly printed and distributed thousands of gospels among the Russian people who had no other access to the gospel message.
And yet, “the joy of having brought someone to Christ [was] always mixed with this feeling that there is a price to be paid“. Richard would pay with 14 years of imprisonment, enduring unspeakable horrors and months of solitary confinement because of his faith in Jesus.
Legacy of Forgiveness
The Carpenter who spent most of his life with nails and wood was himself nailed to wood. On the cross he was mocked, taunted and jeered at and yet his response was quite unlike anything that anyone had ever seen before.
“Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”.
Rather than curse and revile his enemies the Lamb and Great High Priest poured forth blood and prayers for them. Purchasing forgiveness for all who would follow Him he also unleashed a peculiar power to love.
Surely the most remarkable legacy of Richard Wurmbrand was not necessarily the organisations that he inspired, amazing though that is, but his Christ-like capacity for this kind of radical love. Those who knew him say he was not bitter, angry with God or full of hatred for his torturers. Like other Christians around him he was able to love the people who persecuted him, demonstrating such compelling faith that many of the Communist guards became Christians themselves.
So as we think about ways in which we can pray for and help those around the world who suffer for their faith let us also learn with them valuable lessons of discipleship; fighting hatred with love, forgiving those who curse us and overcoming darkness with light.
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