Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Modern-Day Martyr

I arrived back in Virginia from Germany Friday evening and went straight to a hotel, because the movers had come to pack up our belongings for our move to Annapolis. (See my previous blog post about my new job.) Saturday morning, I woke up jet lagged around 4:30 am and headed to the IHOP, one of the few restaurants open at that hour. While sipping my coffee I perused the Washington Post. One tiny news report caught my attention. The headline read: “N. Korea Accused of Executing a Christian.” (You can read a longer version from the previous day’s Post here.)

The story was about a woman, Ri Hyon Ok, “a Christian woman accused of distributing the Bible, which is banned in communist North Korea.” Ok, “a 33-year-old mother of three,” was executed after being accused of spying for South Korea and the United States. (While it’s almost impossible to verify the truth of such reports coming out of communist North Korea, I’m going to assume that Ok was indeed killed for Bible distribution, not espionage.)

I’ve been thinking about Mrs. Ok since Saturday. It would have been easy for her to rationalize a different approach to her faith. There’s no scriptural mandate to distribute Bibles. She had a family to think about. And didn’t Paul say something about all authority being given by God? Who was she to disobey her God-appointed rulers? But Ok did not rationalize away her Christian duty. Instead she did what most of us would be too cowardly to do. She put her faith into action, despite the danger. The Bible for which she died sheds light on her situation. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:10).

When the Apostle Paul was in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), he had a peculiar vision one night: “There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). When he got to Macedonia, however, he didn’t find a man; he found a godly woman named Lydia (v. 14). Through Lydia God established a beachhead for the Gospel in Europe. Pray he will do the same in North Korea through the faithful witness of Ri Hyon Ok.

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