Last night I saw the movie The Insanity of God. It came out in limited release back in August and then came back for one showing yesterday, September 13. Every American Christian needs to see this movie. Every. Single. One. Why? Because in our American ivory palaces and modern, feel-good churches we are so far removed from what is happening just about everywhere else except here.
As Christians, the Bible says that we are the body of Christ. When one member suffers, then we all suffer. When one member rejoices, we all rejoice. But not here. When we find out one member is suffering, then we wonder what they are doing “wrong” that has brought God’s judgment on them. When a member rejoices, then we rejoice with them because of the “blessing of God” on their lives. However, in other parts of the world where the price of faith is costly, difficulties and persecutions are their training ground and prison is their seminary.
Hopefully, the movie will be back at least in DVD form soon so that people who missed the limited showings can see it. While you are waiting for that, you can read the book! It, of course, is filled with much more than can be covered in a 2 hour movie. It truly is a must-read. (Update: the movie is available on DVD here.)
The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken – the book – came out in 2013 and begins with a confession: Nik Ripken is not his real name. As you read the book you will understand why the author chose to write under a nom de plume. To write this book he has traveled to some of the harshest, most oppressive and most dangerous countries in the world and gathered stories from the people living there. These people have been intimidated, tortured, imprisoned, ridiculed, impoverished and oppressed simply because they are disciples of Jesus Christ, Christians. He has not only changed his own name, but he has also changed their names to protect them as much as possible from further consequences.
Sometimes when we think of Christians being persecuted, we think of Foxes Book of Martyrs. Or we think of ancient Romans in the Colosseum cheering and clapping as they watch lions devour Christians in the arena for sport. Or maybe we think of pastors behind the Iron Curtain being pulled out of their pulpits during the height of Communism and the Cold War. But I don’t think we think much about Christians being persecuted now in the 21st century. The real truth is that every single day 100 million people are persecuted for their faith. More Christians have been persecuted in the 20th and 21st centuries than all the martyrs combined in the first 1800 years since the resurrection of Christ.
In The Insanity of God, Ripken takes us with him on a journey – not just a journey across the globe – but also a journey of faith. He is honest about his struggles to understand and see God’s compassion and mercy in the midst of unspeakable cruelty. Somalia is one of the places God sent him and one of the places he saw some of the most overwhelming needs with practically no resources to even begin meeting those needs. He says, “Somalia in February of 1992 was as close to hell as I ever wanted to be.”
As Ripken traveled to Russia and China and other countries interviewing Christians (sometimes at great risk to himself and to them), he discovered a common thread woven through this tapestry of persecution. Made scarlet by the blood of Christ and His martyred saints, this thread was made stronger as oppression braided it into a strong, unbreakable rope of faith. A precious saint in Russia explained it to him this way: “For us, persecution is like the sun coming up in the east. It happens all the time. It’s the way things are.”
One of my favorite stories in the book comes from a remote village in China where Ripken says, “Some of the church leaders from the most rural areas had little knowledge of the outside world.” One of the pastors had a question for him. He asked, “Do the people in other countries also know about Jesus – or is He still known only in China?” Imagine their surprise and joy when he explained that not only do others know about Jesus but they also know about them and pray for them! He went on to tell them stories of Muslim background believers who had found Jesus and who were suffering for their faith in Him. What happened the next morning is truly unbelievable and incredibly moving. Ripken awakened the next morning to sounds of screaming and crying. At first he was extremely alarmed, but then his interpreter explained what was happening. “He said, ‘They were so moved by what you shared last night about believers who were truly persecuted, that they have vowed before God that they will get up an hour earlier every morning to pray for those Muslim background believers. . . until Jesus is known throughout their countries.'”
I encourage you to go on your own journey of faith by following the path of Nik Ripken in The Insanity of God. Be encouraged by the stories of faithful saints. Mourn with them. Rejoice with them. (Romans 12:15) Consider the choice Ripken faced and decide for yourself: “Would I choose to trust this God who I could not control? Would I be willing to walk with this God whose ways are so different? Would I, once again, lean on this God who makes impossible demands and promises only His presence?” Will I – will you – follow this God whose ways seem insane to this world in which we live? It’s a question that every single person who has ever lived must answer. Ripken’s answer is yes! My answer is yes! What will your answer be?
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