Canadian pastor Artur Pawlowski was arrested, after returning from a trip to the United States for some preaching engagements. Born behind the Soviet “Iron Curtain” in Kozuchow Poland, he immigrated to Canada in 1995 and became a Canadian citizen in 2004.
He has pastored for several years in Alberta Canada, and had become known for standing up to Albertan and Canadian authorities that imposed mask mandates and restrictions on church gatherings. In a viral video he ran off police encroaching upon the church’s observance of a special Passover service, prior to Resurrection Sunday.
I found out about his arrest through a Facebook post by an American pastor, who is a friend of pastor Artur. The post troubled me greatly, in fact, it left me grieved, frustrated and at the end feeling a little hopeful. My irritation has nothing to do with pastor Artur, or his arrest. To be honest, I expected that and expect more to come, even in America. I also expect that in addition to more church leaders, faithful lay Christians will be jailed or worse.
So my irritation was not over the growing persecution of Christians. Why should it be? The Lord Jesus told us this would occur in all of His teaching on how we relate to the world, especially in relation to the the very last days before His return.
What grieved me was the the rising anger and rhetorical vitriol from the pastor who was sharing the information of Artur’s circumstances. The host’s demeaner seemed out of place, given the fact that as a pastor his biblical knowledge ought to have regulated his emotion and response.
Let me say first, that I completely support Artur in His obedience to Christ, and as a pastor will never freely cease providing an opportunity for the saints to gather together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as this is commanded by the word of God (Hebrews 10:19-31). I fully expect that if I live long enough, I will find myself jailed for the sake of my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, or worse.
I am in lock step with the young pastor’s heart for our brother Artur and grieve deeply for his family and fellowship, for as long as they are without him. That said, we America Christians need to open our eyes to what we have been missing; we must begin to understand suffering for Christ not as unfortunate circumstances, but part of how we glorify God by denying ourselves.
It is important that by the fruit of the Spirit of self control, we can control our emotions; remembering that the anger of man is not always reflective of God being angry. In that case, we misrepresent the character of God to those whom we lead. Remember, this was the issue concerning Moses sin in Numbers 20, where he was told to speak to the rock for water, but struck it instead.
Numbers 20:12 (NKJV) Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
What grieved me about the the brother’s “righteous anger” is that, only now, when soft persecutions measures are closer to us in the United States, are we seeing the serious nature and risk of living with faith in Jesus Christ. In fear, many are having a similar un-christlike response.
I have advocated for the persecuted church world-wide over the last 15 years and have consistently found, most America pastors and Christians have been clueless to Christian persecution world-wide. Many are too busy to know and sadly many simply don’t have heart or time to time to care.
Let me ask the questions of those of us who are American Christians, where was our outrage over the Christians persecuted around the world, over the last 20 years?
Where is the outrage over the slaughter and torture of North Korean Christians since the United States halted its military mission in 1953? It is likely that in my 24 years as a Christian, that North Korea is the most brutal and pervasive of persecutors of our brethren in the world.
Where is the outrage for the pastors and laity reduced to forced poverty, jailed and killed in Vietnam, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia or the Philippines over the last 20 years?
Where is the outrage over the brutality against the church in Columbia from FARC militant groups, corrupt government officials and drug Lords?
Where is our outrage over our brothers and sisters in India, who are beaten to death, stoned to death, have their houses burned, are evicted from home and village, or left out of jobs? Recently an 11 year boy, who was a leader in his church was burned with acid over 65% of his body (3rd degree). Where is the outrage? In India the government has used covid-19 to stifle the church, because they want and entire Hindi state. Where is the outrage our angry rhetoric?
Although I understand and have expressed righteous indignation, we must remember that we are called to be swift to hear, slow to anger and slow to wrath; for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20). Let me ask another question…
Is the Lord more grieved by lost people doing lost people things, when He told us exactly what the lost would attempt to do to us (please read John 15:18-25 and John 16:1-4), or by His children who have for so long turned a blind eye to the suffering of their brethren world-wide and are angry because the heat has been turned up a little on them?
To me this is a rhetorical question, and it leads me to why this pastor’s post FRUSTRATED me.
he Facebook post I am referencing reminded me of a huge problem that has been diminishing the spiritual effectiveness of the church in America for the last 125 years. This problem is outlined in a very powerful and long forgotten hymn, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross“
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own his cause,
Or blush to speak his name?
Must I be borne to Paradise,
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vain world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy Word.
When thine illustrious day shall rise,
And all thy saints shall shine,
And shouts of vict’ry rend the skies,
The glory, Lord, be thine.
The second verse discusses the mindset which stirs my frustration. Because the dominant position on the rapture in America is the pre-tribulational position, most America Christians believe the were borne for paradise and will get there transported on flowery beds of ease. This is the American Christian mindset, while our brethren world-wide have been led as sheep to the slaughter all day long (Romans 8:36-39), fighting to win the prize and sailing through bloody seas, we get to ride to glory on flowery beds of ease.
When would suggest counter to that false narrative, in anger we rant and ignore the truth that no sincere Christian avoids tribulation.
Now for those who are pre-tribulation brethren, note I did not say “no sincere Christian avoids the tribulation period“, but “tribulation“. Observe the words of Jesus Christ Himself.
John 15:18-20 (NKJV) “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
John 16:33 (NKJV) These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Whatever rapture position one holds (except post-tribulationism which has not biblical merit), being “caught up” does not mean we avoid satanic attack, in fact we find scriptures where the Lord God allows Satan to appear to win.
Revelation 13:6-7 (NKJV) Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them.
Here is the frustration, because of the wrong mindset concerning an escapist rapture (We are only guaranteed we are not appointed to the wrath of God): We see persecution as an evil to be stamped out, when it is exactly what God uses to purify, strengthen and fill His church with the joy of the Lord (I Peter 1:6-9; 4:11-12; James 1:2-9).
When we recoil at persecution, rather than embrace the will of the Lord in it, we miss the blessing and benefit of being afflicted for Christ’s sake. This is the source of my frustration, because although I do not like pain or the prospect of confinement, torture or death, I realize some of all of those painful things are built into my salvation in Jesus Christ; in fact suffering is our calling in Christ, every bit as much as the joy of salvation.
Philippians 1:27-30 (NKJV) Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
We must remember that in the first persecution against the church, chronicled in Acts 3-5, we see a very different response than anger, outrage or even shock. When the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin their response was not laced with vitriol or angst at all.
Acts 4:18-22 (NKJV) So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
When they were brought a second, before their nations leaders they replied “We ought to body God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29). When this answer led to them being beaten with rods and severely threatened, their response was remarkable.
Acts 5:41-42 (NKJV) So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
This is where I speak of the HOPE I have after viewing the young pastor’s video. Despite the anger arising from fear and wrong headed thinking about how Christians in free lands ought to expect a different outcome to their faith (than the rest of the world’s Christians), we are seeing the church awaken.
The Church is awakening to its calling in Christ. The Church is awakening to the precious nature of our faith and the risk and reward of living absolutely surrendered to our our Lord Jesus Christ. Daily the church in America are seeing the signs that Jesus told us would proceed His return. Therefore we can hope in life eternal to come, rather than scraping by on this sin cursed rock, looking for ways to spruce up what Christ will purge with fire.
I have hope that all who truly love the Lord Jesus Christ will not look to politicians for provision, protection or solutions, but to Him to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. I have hope that in the short years to come (before Christ’s return), real deep Holy Spirit empowered fellowship will grow and the church well shine brighter than it ever has, in testimony of our God and Savior. I have hope, for our redemption is nearer than when we first believed and many of us will be those who hear last trumpet of God, the voice of the arch angel and rise to meet Christ in the air.