Richard Wurmbrand’s book ‘Tortured for Christ’ was over a period of 3 days shortly after his release from a Romanian prison and originally published in 1967. Wurmbrand says that his book has ‘no literary value’ and to an extent there is some truth. However the true value of the book is due to the way it shed light on the plight of the underground churches under communism in Eastern Europe. Although the edition I read has been updated and re-published in 2013, it still feels somewhat dated. This isn’t really a surprise and there has been a broadening to include the persecuted church globally.
Wurmbrand writes based on his personal experience as a Christian leader in Romania. He recalls both his persecution and imprisonment for having the Christian faith. From a 21st century First World perspective this is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. For us persecution often only means the loss of face or friends but to hear the experiences of a man who struggles wearing shoes because of injuries to his feet is truly humbling. It would be easy to reach the conclusion that those suffering acute persecution have greater faith but one doesn’t get this impression from the book. Instead the book seeks to make known the conditions of the persecuted church in such a way that we in the First World are prompted to action.
‘Tortured for Christ’ is not an autobiography. Nor does it really give a full account of Wurmbrand’s prison experience. Rather the book threads the stories of numerous underground Christians and how even through persecution they are able to share the message of Jesus. This includes occasions where prison cell mates and guards have been reached for Christ. It features letters which resound which love and joy despite circumstances and it is clear to see the presence of Christ in their midst.
Even though it is dated it is worth reading. It doesn’t merely give a glimpse into the past but helps us to consider our view of plight of the persecuted church. First World Christianity sometimes measures size as a means of measuring success however the book calls us to honour those who sacrifice their lives in serving Jesus. It achieves this by calling us to unity in the faith, to consider how we came pray and support such Christians. This includes seeking ways that we can help finance Christian missions, utilise various media to spread the Christian message and make their plight known. But perhaps most significantly the book resounds with the desire to love and show Jesus to those who are persecuting. This radical message of forgiveness sings the message of Jesus through whom we have been shown grace.
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