Students of the Cross

On February 19th, 280 Christian students were assaulted on their way to graduation. The graduates of the Emmanuel Theological Seminary and Bible College in Kota, Rajasthan, India, were beaten at the Koto train station by a militant Hindu mob (RSS) that was waiting for them. They were beaten again at the police station with iron rods and bicycle chains. The students were then robbed and forced to return home. The next day another group of 22 graduates were beaten and also forced to return home. Still, 4,300 came from across India, to receive their diplomas.

Former Emmanuel graduates have gone out to “swim” in the turbulent waters of a Hindu society that is hostile to Christianity, and they have planted 11,113 churches. They were not content to stand on the shore and have jumped into hot water because they dared to get involved for the sake of the Cross.

Two years ago 1,508 graduating students of Emmanuel College came from their satellite schools to graduate together in Kota. Standing side by side they made the following pledge:

• I stand with the apostle Paul in stating that “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

• I take a stand to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my hands to serve all mankind.

• I take a stand to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my feet to spread the gospel to all the ends of the earth no matter what the cost.

• I take a stand to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my lips by proclaiming the Good News to all who hear and by edifying the Body of Christ.

• I take a stand to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my mind as I meditate upon His Word and His promises to me.

• I give my earthly treasures and all that I possess to follow the way of the cross.

• I commit to love my family, orphans, widows, lepers, the wealthy and the poor the way that Christ loved the church.

• I surrender my will and life to His will and life.

• I commit to the service of the Lord by being a good steward of my time.

• I surrender this body on earth to the perfect will of Jesus, and should my blood be spilled may it bring forth a mighty harvest of souls.

• I pledge allegiance to the Lamb. I will seek to honor His command. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.

• Lord Jesus, Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

• I love my India and my fellow citizens, and I claim India for Christ.

One spark at this 2003 service was a newly converted Christian young man who had carried his four-month faith back to his village. While sharing the joy of his salvation, he was persecuted by the whole village. Hopegivers International reports that the villagers tied pairs of old shoes around his neck, forced him to parade down the main road while they beat him, and then forced him to drink the urine of a cow. As a result of his lifting up Christ, 100 villagers became Christians.

Glenn Penner from our Canadian office comments: “These students understand that the real sacrifice for ministry comes not so much in the preparation of ministry but in the performance of it. They understand that a cross-centered gospel requires cross-carrying messengersÉChristians are not called to a lesser degree of involvement. Sacrifice for Christ is not theoretical. It is tangible. It is real. Go out, and make something happen.”

In my old 1966 Random House Dictionary, I found these challenging terms describing the word “involve”: “the art of entangling, something complicated, to bring into difficulties, to absorb fully, concerned in an affair in a way likely to cause danger or unpleasantness, committed or engaged.” Reading the list, it is easy to see why we hear the sentence, “Don’t get involved.”

Jesus was totally involved—in the temple, on the street, and in the dining rooms of the world. He calls us to carry our cross and swim out into society, fully engaged, or sink into a worldly sea of sameness.

It is human nature to flee unpleasantness, entanglement, complications. It is supernatural to walk to them and through them for the gospel. Demas, who helped Paul while he was in prison, later changed his mind and abandoned Paul (2 Timothy 4:10). He chose not to be involved. When I was imprisoned in Cuba, I met Pastor Noble Alexander, who while a prisoner for more than 20 years had secretly baptized more than 300 prisoners. The founder of our mission, Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, taught his Romanian youth group to give Gospels to the invading Russian soldiers.

Do we swim out into society’s waters, activating our entire body, involved in the process? Or do we stand on the shore and shout about the danger, afraid of sinking among the sinners?

Surviving or Sharing in Christ’s Sufferings

As described in the book, The Prison Poems of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this German Lutheran pastor was speaking and writing in America in 1939, while back in his homeland, courageous Germans resisting Adolf Hitler were being executed. Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter that he must cancel his lectures, which were arranged to keep him safe in America, and return home. His uncle, General VonHase, had already been hanged.

Bonhoeffer was disappointed with his church, which was content to survive until the evil times were over, calling this a “self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself.” A few Protestant and Catholic leaders protested Nazi brutalities before they gained complete power. The church in Germany, he said, had lost its power to proclaim the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation to the world. He returned to Germany, was captured and executed, but his writings and the spirit in which they were written remain with us. He disdained non-moral sympathy, or simply feeling bad about something but doing nothing about it. He called this a product of “religiosity” and hoped that it would not be a trait of his people.

In a letter from prison, he wrote the challenging statement, “It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but the participation in the suffering of God in the world.” Like Jesus, he chose to carry his cross into a brutal godless tyranny, not by becoming entangled in their sin, but by engaging German minds with the gospel.

The Voice of the Martyrs, July 2005

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