If I asked you to get a piece of paper and something to write with and make a numerical list of all the things you would be willing to die for, what would those be?
I have asked this question to some of my friends, and you know what their answers were? They told me genuinely that they would be willing to die for their children, family members, country, and land. I understand because people in the past have been killed for family members and the freedom of one’s own country.
My friends, what would you be willing to die for? The answer to this question reveals your highest priority in life. Also, it shows what you live for.
In the Bible, Jesus answers what our highest priority ought to be, for which we must be willing to give up everything.
Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23, “if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Here, Jesus says that in following Him, we must be willing to give up to the extent of ourselves to receive Him. In other words, living for Jesus is far more valuable than living for ourselves. To be a follower of Christ means to be willing to deny anything that comes in the way of our relationship with Him. Even to the extent of family, friends, land, and social status.
I come from Odisha, in India. It is not uncommon for Christians living in this region to face persecution for their faith in Lord Jesus Christ. You may recall Graham Staines, who, along with his two sons, Timothy (aged 6) and Philip (aged 10), was burned to death by Hindu extremists in 1999. Another such incident was the violence against Christians in Kandhamal in 2008. Many Christians were killed, and thousands of homes were destroyed by Hindu fundamentalists.
Let me share with you a recent incident that happened here in Odisha.
A man named Rinku (name has been changed to protect privacy) encountered the gospel for the first time at Sikarpai village and put his trust in Jesus Christ. He shared his newfound faith with other villagers. Then, twelve more families came to Jesus. They started meeting in each other’s tiny houses to pray. This came to the attention of Hindu extremists living in the village. They noticed that Rinku and these others were no longer worshipping idols or praying at the Hindu temples.
The extremists were not happy about these changes. They objected and said Christianity was a foreign religion that had no place within their larger community. But the Christians continued to practice their newfound faith. This led to them being verbally abused by angry Hindu fundamentalists. The Christians were also beaten physically in different places in the village and at different times. Still, they persisted and did not back down from worshipping Christ. The extremists then cut off their access to the pumped water supply and excluded them from participating in any social activities. Some of the Christian girls were even harassed physically and verbally because of this hatred. The girls’ families reported these events to the police. But once the police were gone after making their inquiries, the Hindu fundamentalists became even more furious towards the Christian families. They spread false information about them among the nearby villages and rounded up more Hindu supporters against them. A large mob of Hindu supporters attacked the Christian families. The tiles of their houses were removed. Their doors were destroyed. They were beaten physically and finally expelled from the village.
What can we learn from these followers of Christ?
These followers in Odisha gave up their land, homes, and their livelihoods to follow Christ. They said ‘No’ to the Hindu extremists and ‘No’ to worldly security for the sake of Christ. They carried their cross to follow Him, even into the jungle where they now are currently living.
They are not ashamed to identify themselves with Christ. They gave up all that they had for Christ. To them, following Christ is more valuable than proper homes, water, and daily essentials. They have taken up their cross to follow Jesus because they know His words in Luke 9:24, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Are we ready to live and die for Christ? Are we ready to give up everything that comes in the way of Christ? Is Jesus Christ our highest priority? Lord, help us remember that even if we lose our earthly life for the sake of Christ, we will be saving it for all eternity.
Dear brothers and sisters, please pray for these Christians in Odisha. They need much support.