Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Joy of Our Salvation

I am reading Richard Wurmbrand's first book, Tortured for Christ, which recounts the years of Wurmbrand's early evangelization among the Russians in occupied communist Romania in the 1940s. For his bold proclamation of the gospel, Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned and severely tortured for fourteen years in Communist prisons. His biography (which is really the biography of a persecuted church) is an account, to of all unbelievable things, beauty. Over and over and over again, amidst torture and the vilest of human offenses, Pastor Wurmbrand reflects on the unfailing love of Jesus Christ and the beautiful faithfulness of His bride as seen in the suffering faces of the persecuted church. The entire book would be replicated here, if possible, but for now, the encounter recorded below will provide a glimpse into the covers of this book.

The following account takes place before Wurmbrand's first arrest. A Russian officer had been sent by a colleague to speak with Pastor Wurmbrand regarding his desire to make a confession. In Richard Wurmbrand's own words:

I read to him the Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Jesus. After hearing them, he danced around the room in rapturous joy proclaiming, "What a wonderful beauty! How could I live without knowing this Christ!" It was the first time that I saw someone so joyful for Christ.

Then I made a mistake. I read to him the passion and crucifixion of Christ, without having prepared him for this. He had not expected it and, when he heard how Christ was beaten, how He was crucified and that in the end He died, he fell into an armchair and began to weep bitterly. He had believed in a Savior and now his Savior was dead!

I looked at him and was ashamed. I had called myself a Christian, a pastor, and a teacher of others, but I had never shared the sufferings of Christ as this Russian officer now shared them. Looking at him, it was like seeing Mary Magdalene weeping at the foot of the cross, faithfully weeping when Jesus was a corpse in the tomb.

Then I read to him the story of the resurrection and watched his expression change. He had not known that his Savior arose from the tomb. When he heard this wonderful news, he beat his knees and swore - using very dirty, but very "holy" profanity. This was his crude manner of speech. Again he rejoiced, shouting for joy, "He is alive! He is alive!" He danced around the room once more, overwhelmed with happiness!

I said to him, "Let us pray!" He did not know how to pray. He did not know our "holy" phrases. He fell on his knees together with me and his words of prayer were: "Oh God, what a fine chap you are! If I were You and You were me, I would never have forgiven You of Your sins. But You are really a very nice chap! I love You with all my heart."