Watching the Russians
For all of the political turmoil we’ve been experiencing in Washington, DC, things are much worse in Russia—that is, for the United States, Christians, Jewish people, and the Russians themselves. In the former mecca of communism, there is a very dark cast on the way history is turning.
First, there is the economic meltdown that carries with it the possibility of a new revolution. Radical nationalism is gaining momentum, and it is coupled with an apparent comeback of old-line communists. Of course, communism never really left, but has been operating under the guise of bureaucratic reform. Furthermore, national leaders and the Parliament are putting the squeeze on the freedom Christians have had to propagate the gospel. Many Christian groups are reporting closing doors of opportunity or severe restrictions on their activities. Jewish people are also alarmed over developments to the point that many are visiting the Jewish Agency asking for particulars about immigrating to Israel. The Agency reports that the number of inquiries is higher than the numbers seen since the early days of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is also exceedingly troubling that the current Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, is an ardent friend of the Arabs with warm ties to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. This relationship does not bode well for future relations with Israel or the United States.
If Russia is indeed turning back to its repressive, imperialistic ways, there are several things with which Christians need to concern themselves. First, we can be profoundly grateful to God for the opportunities we have had in Russia over the past several years. No one expected the collapse of the Soviet Union. It came as a genuine grace gift. We can also take some degree of comfort in the fact that the millions of Bibles and other types of Christian literature, along with thousands of hours of instruction given to church leaders and believers, will be there no matter what happens.
Next, we need to do all we can while we can. Some doors are still open. How long this will be the case, only the Lord knows. Presently, Christian organizations that have ties to recognized local Russian churches are free to continue operating. It is important that these organizations establish or maintain contacts in these churches as long as they are able. We also need to accelerate prayer for our brethren in Russia and the countries that once comprised the Soviet bloc. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Christians have come out in the open and are therefore exposed to attack if religious persecution returns to the scene. We must also remember the Jewish people who remain in Russia. The forces of radical nationalism are on the move; if they gain the upper hand, we can be sure that the Jewish people will be targeted as scapegoats for the chaos created by political machinations.
Without question, we are in the period of history the Apostle Paul regarded as “perilous times” (2 Tim. 3:1). Russia is just one nation where believers’ faith will be tested. The world is becoming a veritable time bomb, and we must be prepared to do whatever it takes to fulfill our commission to make Him known.