With this post I am returning to a too long neglected feature of this blog: "Clouds of Witnesses." It has always been my intention that "The Hand" would be more than just another site spouting personal opinions. I want those who stumble upon this site to leave feeling blessed in some way. Therefore this site contains features for such a purpose: "Monday Morning Devotions", Occasional sermons, "Close Encounters of the Theological Kind." The purpose behind "Clouds of Witnesses" is to bring the Church into contact with the struggles and triumphs of saints past and present. I trust that these features lead to further explorations of the men and women covered by this site. I hope these explorations increase believers' faith and produce deeper reflection on the Christian life.
Today I bring before you the example of Richard Wurmbrand. Wurmbrand was a Romanian pastor who ministered to his own people and Russian soldiers occupying his nation in the 1940's. In 1948, he was arrested by the Communist authorities and endured years of imprisonment and torture. In the mid sixties, he was ransomed out of Romania to testify of the struggle of the Underground Church in the Communist world. He and his wife founded Voice of the Martyrs to minister to the oppressed Church around the world. I will not discuss his life or book "Tortured For Christ" in detail. It is best just to let Wurmbrand speak for himself. The following are quotes from "Tortured For Christ." The page numbers are included even though the edition I read is long out of print.
"Once the communists came to power, they skillfully used the means of seduction toward the Church. The language of love and the language of seduction are the same. The one who wishes a girl for a wife and the one who wishes her for the night in order to throw her away afterward, both say "I love you." Jesus has told us to distinguish the language of seduction from the language of love, and to know the wolves clad in sheepskin from the real sheep.
"When the communists came to power thousands of priests, pastors, and ministers did not know how to distinguish the two voices." p.15.
On the difficulty of witnessing to Russians who had been molded by Marxist teaching from birth: "In talking with them (Russian soldiers) and many others I learned that to preach the Gospel to the Russians, after so many years of communism,we must use an entirely new language.
"The missionaries who went to Central Africa has difficulty translating the words of Isaiah: "If your sins are red as scarlet they will become white as snow." Nobody in Central Africa has ever seen snow. They had to translate; "Your sins will become white as the kernel of the coconut.
"So we had to translate the Gospel into Marxist language and render it understandable to them. It was something we could not do by ourselves-but the Holy Spirit did his work through us." p.20.
On why one young Russian, Poitr, accepted Jesus: "He said that he had listened attentively when, at one of our secret meetings, I had read Luke 24, the story of Jesus meeting the two disciples who went toward Emmaus. When they drew nigh unto the village, "He made as though He would have gone farther." Piotr said: "I wondered why Jesus said this. He surely wanted to stay with His disciples. Why then did He say that He wished to go further?" My explanation was that Jesus is polite. He wished to be very sure that he was desired. When he saw that He was welcomed, He gladly entered the house with them. The communists are impolite. They enter by violence into our hearts and minds. They oblige us us from morning to late in the night to listen to them. They do it through their schools, radio, newspapers, posters, movie pictures, atheistic meetings and everywhere you turn. You have to listen continuously to their godless propaganda, whether you like it or dislike it. Jesus respects our freedom. He gently knocks at the door. "Jesus has won me by his politeness," said Piotr. This stark contrast between communism and Christ had convinced him.
"He was not the only Russian to have been impressed by this feature in Jesus' character. (I, as a pastor, had never thought about it this way.)
After his conversion, Piotr risked his liberty and life again and again to smuggle Christian literature and help for the Underground Church in Romania to Russia. In the end he was caught. I know that in 1959 he was in prison. Has he died? Is he already in heaven or is he continuing the good fight on earth? I don't know. Only God knows where he is today.
"Like them, many others were not only converted. We should never stop at having won a soul for Christ. By this, you have done only half the work. Every soul won for Christ must be made into a soul-winner. The Russians were not only converted, but became "missionaries" in the Underground Church.They were reckless and daring for Christ, always saying it was so little they could do for Christ who died for them" p. 27-28.
"I am sorry if a crocodile eats a man, but I can't reproach the crocodile. He is not a moral being. So no reproaches can be made to the communists. Communism has destroyed any moral sense in them. They boasted they had no pity in their hearts.
I learned from them. As they allowed no place for Jesus in their hearts, I decided I would leave not the smallest place for Satan in mine." p. 38.
"Several Christians have asked me how we could resist brainwashing. There is only one method of resistance to brainwashing. This is "heartwashing." If the heart is cleansed by the love of Jesus Christ, and if the heart loves Him, you can resist all tortures. What would a loving bride not do for a loving bridegroom? What would a loving mother not do for her child? If you love Christ as Mary did, who had Christ as a baby in her arms, if you love Jesus as a bride loves her bridegroom, then you can resist such tortures.
"God will judge us not according to what we endured, but how much we could love. I am a witness for the Christians in communist prisons that they could love. They could love God and men." p.41.
"It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners. It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their terms. It was a deal; we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching. They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy."
More quotes from Wurmbrand will follow in the next few weeks.
Here are two biographical websites on Wurmbrand:
To purchase "tortured For Christ" go to this link: http://www.amazon.com/Tortured-Christ-Richard-Wurmbrand/dp/0882643266