Amidst escalating hostility, the American pastor who was imprisoned in Turkey for two years on false charges is advising Christians in the United States that they must be ready to confront the kind of persecution endured by other believers around the world.
In a commentary for Decision magazine, Pastor Andrew Brunson admitted that he was unprepared for the atrocities he faced in a Turkish prison. He recalled his first year in prison, noting that he came close to failing. He revealed that he became suicidal at times. He was gripped with fear and despair, and his relationship with God suffered.
He said the gatekeepers of American society were becoming increasingly unreceptive to people who identify with Jesus and His teaching. He clarified that he's not talking about politics. He emphasized that his concerns revolved between followers of Jesus on the other hand and people who were opposed to followers of Jesus on the other.
In his column, he stated that he expects "two wedge issues" will "drive persecution." First, is the exclusivity of Jesus in salvation - that Jesus is the only way to God. Second, Jesus challenges His followers to obey Him in a variety of contentious areas in our culture, including sexual morality, gender identity, marriage, family, life, and Biblical justice.
He explained that people who are true to Jesus in preserving Gospel exclusivity and obedience to Christ will be characterized as wicked, and those who persecute Christians will justify their actions by claiming that Christians as hateful people with a hateful message. The pastor stated that the majority of believers were not ready for the challenges of persecution, and emphasized the risk entailed in it.
Persecution Ends In Victory Of Jesus
Brunson was imprisoned in October 2016 by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's conservative dictatorship, which intended to exchange the pastor for a Muslim cleric in the United States accused by Turkey of masterminding the failed 2016 coup attempt.
He said in an interview after his release, that he only managed to retain his sanity by spending hours in prayer. He believed that his imprisonment made him stand under pressure despite being weak and overwhelmed. He hopes that his story would encourage Christians to remain even when under pressure.
It's one of the hard truths that God allowed His children to suffer persecution, a more difficult one than Christians could imagine. He said, "I had an idealistic view of how I would handle intense persecution like imprisonment. And looking back, I think it would have helped me to know how difficult it can be so that I could adjust my mindset and expectations."
After his experience, he challenged that persecution could be good for Christians. "Bring it on," he said. However, he warned Christians how persecution could be difficult so he said to be careful and not to be over-confident.
Referencing Jesus as the Lion of Judah, he wrote, "My brothers and sisters, we are on a perilous journey." He reminded Lion's presence in every believer's life and in the end, victory was on the Lion and for those who stood with Him.