Many of the books recommended here are a little older; the recommendation in this post is of books by Richard Wurmbrand and in particular In God’s Underground. Wurmbrand was a pastor in Romania under Communism and after being ransomed from his homeland came to ‘the west’ and founded Christian Mission to the Communist World; this means that much of what he says has to do with the Communist world, but his message on love for God and the church in persecution is timeless.
As a parenthesis, I recently read a fine book called The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken. This man experienced the hell of oppression in Somalia; this led him to wish to find out how Christians survived under such conditions, indeed if they survived. His book chronicles his own experience and then his travels to interview men and women in places where they had been through and are going through persecution, in the former Soviet bloc, but also in China and the muslim world. Some of the accounts are very moving and stirring; very strongly recommended!
Returning to Wurmbrand; he was a prolific author. Perhaps the best known book is Tortured for Christ, but I would rather recommend In God’s Underground. It is substantially autobiographical; he tells a little of his childhood and then his conversion from Jewish playboy (his word) to Christian pastor. Integrity and love for people required of him to love Nazi soldiers who invaded his country, then the Russians when they came, and then the communists when they seized power; but love may mean opposition. He interprets “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” as “give the unjust invaders a boot in the backside, kick them out of the country”.
A Jew preaching the Gospel and opposing unjust government, first Fascist, then Communist, could not long stay free. Wurmbrand tells a little of the ways of the Underground Church, but most of the book is concerned with his 14 years of imprisonment, several of them in solitary confinement. There are perhaps two things which become particularly clear. Firstly, the wonderful depth of communion with God; Wurmbrand’s thought is most wide-ranging and sympathetic and deeply inhabited by the love of Jesus. Secondly, his knowledge of men; he spent many years locked up with all sorts, many of whom came to faith and the book explores the workings of God in men’s hearts. It is hard to give more than a taste of what is a most extraordinary book .
In due course, elsewhere on this site, it is intended to say much more about Wurmbrand. For now, I will also recommend Overcomers, in which we read accounts of how many others overcame the difficulties of persecution, many with the loss of their lives; it should be noted that many Christians did not overcome. I also particularly recommend Christ on the Jewish Road , but all his books are very good; I have more than a dozen and they are all worn out through re-reading. Wurmbrand was a highly gifted man intellectually in a most passionate and spiritual way; I have read a lot of books and have no doubt that this is much the most remarkable person I have encountered. (Post script: a new discovery for me is If Prison Walls could speak. JB Phillips, renowned Bible translator, calls it ‘perhaps the most remarkable book I have read; it is indeed remarkable.)
Much of what I have said about Richard is also true of the book by Sabina, his spouse, The Pastor’s Wife; she too was imprisoned, but she also tells of the struggle outside prison and rather more about the functioning of the underground church; the book is every bit as wonderful as those of her husband. The thought and the love within the pages are indeed wonderful, but it is also most incongruous to use the word wonderful in connection with the awful suffering described, but we need to know that “we are called to such”; see Are you ready to die? (One aspect of the Wurmbrands’ message is that we need to prepare!)
More highly recommended titles include Victorious Faith; From the Lips of Children, an engaging and often challenging look at things children say; The Answer to Moscow’s Bible (the ‘Atheist’s Handbook’); Marx: Prophet of Darkness, evidence of Marx’s affiliation with Satanism – the pall of this man’s evil teaching still hangs heavy over the world; Alone with God; 100 Prison Meditations; If that were Christ would you give him your blanket?; The Sweetest Song – The Song of Songs considered in the light of the persecuted church.