Tag Archives: Richard Wurmbrand

Why Jesus did not become king

The following is an excerpt from 100 Prison Meditations, on our lack of fitness to govern society:

 Why did Jesus not allow himself to be made a king?

When Jesus perceived that the Jews would make him a king, he departed (Jn 6.15). Surely he would been a better king than Herod and He must have known it. Why, then, did he not accept?

We can only postulate his motives.

One reason would be that the choice would not be His. Nations are fickle: today they elect a king; tomorrow they overthrow him. Christ does not accept the roles we choose for Him. The choices must be His. His decision was to be a Saviour for eternal life rather than a king in this life.

On the other hand, the fact that He was a good Saviour does not prove that he would have been a good king over Judaea, just as a good Sunday school teacher might not necessarily be a good prime-minister.

As man, He sometimes showed utter indifference toward human suffering, just as he could also show compassion. None of these attitudes dominated Him.

He chose among them. He was told about innocent Galileans killed by Pilate. A kingly person in the earthly sense would have shown indignation and would have organized the tyrant’s overthrow. Jesus said simply: ‘Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (Lk 13.2-3).

He is told about a catastrophe, a tower which has collapsed killing eighteen people: Jesus does not give instructions about building more safely in the future, nor does he organize relief for families of the victims. He repeats the above words and makes this another occasion for teaching repentance. He acknowledges only one real motive for grief: that of not being a saint.

This is the correct attitude for a Saviour, but not for an earthly king.

When Jesus heals a man inhabited by demons, He causes a large herd of swine to drown (Lk 8.33). Jesus shows callousness towards this destruction of property. But it was acceptable for a Saviour to destroy a herd and leave someone impoverished in order to heal his fellow man, and therefore Jesus does not justify himself, nor do the evangelists defend his action.

He achieves the objective to be expected from a Saviour. For an earthly king such behaviour would not be right.

Jesus predicts a national tragedy: the destruction of the Jewish state. He does not call upon men to risk their lives in defence of their fatherland as a secular king would have to do. He tells his disciples, ‘At such a time, flee’ (Lk 21.210. The abandonment of their countrymen at such a time forced the final break between Christianity and Judaism.

The Saviour had entrusted the disciples with a deposit of eternal truth which had to be kept intact. This was more important than the defence of the land.

So thinks a Saviour. An earthly king has another calling. These two purposes do not mix.

Jesus could not be an earthly king, and those who try to make Him the Solver of earthly problems are mistaken.

 

Are you ready to die?

Jesus said, ‘Whoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father who is in heaven’ (Matt 10.32).

When the Communists took over Cambodia, they entered a church during the Sunday service. Taking the Bible from the pulpit, an officer put it on the threshold. As his men stood by with rifles ready, he ordered the people to leave the building one by one and spit on the Bible. ‘Whoever does so will be free to go home,’ he said. ‘Whoever does not will be shot on the spot.’

Imagine for a moment that you were a member of the congregation. What would you have done under the circumstances?

As one who has passed through similar situations, I know the thoughts that flash through the mind when put to such a test: “I have a bride. Her heart would break if I were to die. My time has not yet come….I have old parents who are invalids. They depend on me for support. They are doomed if I die. Love obliges me to spit…So what if I spit? Jesus knows that I have done so under duress. He forgave Peter, who denied him without being in such danger as this. He understands human weakness. In any case, I will only spit a little bit.”

These were people who had come to church to worship God and study his word, but they had never decided to die for Christ. One by one, Christians, who ten minutes before had praised Christ in song, left the church and spat on the Bible. Then came a girl of sixteen. When challenged at gunpoint to spit she began to weep and said, “I cannot do it. I love God. The Bible is his letter to us. No child spits on his father’s letter.” She knelt down and wiped away the spittle from the cover of the Bible – and fell dead over the holy book, shot in the head.

What would you have done? Many of us have answered a call to come forward to the altar. The altar in Jerusalem was a place where creatures died. Lambs, rams, doves, whatever came to the altar died. Did you understand your response to the altar call in these terms?

We are not all put in the same situation. Not everyone is forced to lay their life on the line. However, every Christian chose death at his conversion, if it was genuine.

Rabbinical commentaries have said that the key to the Bible lies in the words, ‘This is the law, when a man dies…'(Numbers 19.14). If a person does not die for the law, they have never really considered it to be the law of God. This is how Christians think too. A Christian is someone ‘dead to sin’ and ‘dead with Christ’ (Romans 6.2,8). To respond to an altar call means to die to the world. If you have understood this rightly and lived in this spirit, you will make the right choice in times of crisis.

Few of us may be asked to spit on the Bible literally; but to spit or not to spit is a choice we make daily when we are tempted. It means spitting on the Bible, indeed, on Christ, if we wilfully and consciously prefer a sin to his commandments.

Let us choose rather to wipe away the spittle with which others have soiled his holy word and to be faithful at all times.

(The Total Blessing # 25)

About being narrow-minded…

About being narrow-minded or broad-minded taken from The Total Blessing # 11 by Richard Wurmbrand

Narrow-mindedness is the object of much scorn……When we pass from jokes to reality, narrow-mindedness becomes a virtue. In fact, the Bible endorses it. Paul was so convinced that the gospel he preached was sacrosanct that he wrote: ‘Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed’ (Gal 1.8). He would not have joined ecumenical councils with those who thought differently in theological matters. He would consider them ‘accursed’. Today, believers are far removed from this narrow thinking. Most consider broad-mindedness a virtue to be praised.

John the Evangelist knew he had the doctrine, besides which there was no other. Therefore he wrote, ‘ If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine [of Christ], receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed’ (2 John 10). He even adds (v 11), ‘He that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds’. He left little room for an ecumenical council. It is told that Cerinthus, a heretic, once entered the house where John was bathing, and the latter left his bath naked and fled, not wishing to be under one roof with a man of another doctrine.

Luther warned, ‘The peacock has the garb of an angel and the song of a devil. He is the true picture of a heretic. All heretics look pious, even angelic’. He was so narrow-minded that he refused to shake hands with Zwingli, with whom he differed about the real presence of Christ in holy communion.

God is all-embracing, but his messengers have always been one-sided. Rarely have they been capable of teamwork. It could scarcely be otherwise, because they have stood alone. Steel columns need no wooden props. God’s messengers are pillars in his Church, supporting but unsupported. They can afford to be narrow-minded because they need no one’s approval.

Narrow-mindedness does have its negative side, however. Christians are taught to be hospitable. We should be hospitable toward ideas, too, not only toward people, because truth can never be the possession of a single individual. The Church embraces all kinds of individuals, with all sorts of experiences, in many diverse cultures, throughout the centuries. It is obvious they cannot all think alike in every detail.

But we proceed at our peril if we avoid narrow-mindedness when we seek to pass through a strait gate and walk on a narrow way. On the other hand, narrow-mindedness can also hurt the truth.

It is wrong to be narrow-minded and also wrong to be broad-minded. The ‘I’ that asserts itself should not be. I have to deny myself, denying also the ‘I’ that denies. As a person embraced by their beloved is no longer conscious of an ‘I’ and a ‘you’, so the being embraced by God is neither narrow nor broad-minded. We lose our ‘mindedness’ in the holy embrace in which the Eternal and the believer have become one. Here all distinctions between broad and narrow-mindedness lose their significance, along with the distinction between selfishness and unselfishness.

Why should we not be selfish when our self is God? Why should we not be unselfish when nothing remains of our former self, so that we have nothing to lose?

The one true doctrine, the one true gospel on which Paul and John insisted was this doctrine of oneness with God. Away with the speculations of righteous men about a God outside themselves!These speculations, of narrow-minded bigot or broad-minded liberal, will be false if there is no union with God, in whom problems and divergences disappear.

Therefore don’t be narrow-minded, and don’t be broad-minded either. Don’t be! Blessed is the person whose epitaph is like that of a saint of old: ‘Hic jacet nemo’. (Here lies no one.) Christ is all.

Richard Wurmbrand

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 FaithFrom 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 God100 Prison MeditationsIf that were Christ would you give him your blanket?The Sweetest Song – The Song of Songs considered in the light of the persecuted church.

See also About being narrow-minded… , Short quotations, Are you ready to die? Why Jesus did not become king