‘First the Church is lulled into acceptance, then the hammer falls…”

(Continuing my series of blogs from re-reading ‘Tortured For Christ‘ by Richard Wurmbrand)

Before their marriage, Richard warned Sabina, “You’d suffer a lot with me.” During World War II, his warning became a reality as many members of minority Christian denominations were massacred or forced into concentration camps along with the Jews.

What would I do?

The Wurmbrands smuggled Jewish orphans from ghettos, went door to door and preached daily in bomb shelters, organized relief programs for Hungarian gypsies, participated in clandestine Christian activities—all of which was illegal. But their allegiance was to Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and if the state and the Saviour said different things, they must obey God not man (Acts 5:29). 

I have to say I am so challenged as I read this book about their attitude to all this that it really does make me question my own Christianity and in some way whether or not I’d even qualify as a Jesus follower in the same church. The church that still exists and suffers around the world in our day.

He prayed, “Oh, Lord, how can I thank You that I’m among the beaten and mocked ones and, through Your grace, not among those who beat and mock?” 

What would I pray?

Would I ever have that grace? The grace to pray like that? 

During the wartime years, the Nazis arrested Richard three times. His trials, interrogations, beatings, and imprisonments were only a foretaste and preparation for the cruelty to come under the Communist regime. At the end of the war Churchill signed Romania over to Stalin, who introduced the greatest carnage the world had ever witnessed, claiming nearly one hundred million lives. 

Christians were targeted, tortured, and executed to an extent they had never been under the Nazis as the Communists sought to eradicate religion. Moscow fooled the west with their pretended and promised tolerance while seizing power in government and tightening an iron grip. The cruelties Richard and Sabina had endured so far would pale by comparison to what lay ahead, but through it all the Lord was preparing them to love and forgive their enemies, pray for those who abused them, and suffer for Christ, who had suffered for them. 

I said that Richard spoke about these things when he visited the church I attended here in the UK many years ago. One of the most challenging stories he told was of the meeting they called ‘The Congress of the Cults” (I’ll share more in other blogs) 

Richard knew the playbook from recent history in Russia with the Orthodox (now nothing of the sort) Church. 

“First the church is lulled into acceptance. Then the blow falls.”

From now on, the Communists elected approved church leaders. Existing leaders seemed to compete with one another in paying obeisance to the new orthodoxy. A group of Baptists flew the Red flag over their annual meeting and sang the anthem of the Soviet Union as a Christian hymn. Denominational leaders praised Stalin as a great Bible teacher. Priests became officers of the secret police, seminaries changed their teaching to suit ‘Stalin’s revelation.’

A bishop stitched the hammer and sickle on his clerical robes and asked to be referred to as “Comrade Bishop” not “Your Grace.” 

All ministers were summonsed to the Government HQ for ‘The Congress of the Cults.’

Stalin’s enormous portrait was front and centre, an atheist and mass murderer. Red flags hung everywhere as the Prime Minister stood with the great and not so good establishment figures, more bishops with party officials who made false reassurances of freedom. 

Of course clergy who toed the line and swore allegiance to the ‘new government’, who saw that the ideologies of church and state could coexist and combine with the truths of communism would continue to be paid. In fact they would receive raises! Cheers resounded as the hirelings in the hall gave standing ovations for every speech. 

Richard shuffled in his seat as his anger and frustration grew. How could they not see what was going on? He knew many of those joining in were doing so from fear for their security, family and liberty. If they could not speak out, at least stay silent!

What would we do?

Sabina whispered to her husband the words that would make the two of them enemies of the state, but heroes of the faith when he stood up, to be counted. 

“Richard, stand up and wash this shame from the face of Christ!”

 “If I do,” he warned, “you’ll lose your husband.”

Sabina’s eyes bored into Richard’s, and she squeezed his hand harder. Her nails dug into his palm. With courage only from the Holy Spirit, she spoke again.

 “I don’t want a coward for a husband.”