I am re-reading the chapter on the Anabaptists in Dave Black's The Jesus Paradigm. Something really caught my eye and struck a nerve when I read this:
Because of these beliefs the Anabaptists endured fierce repression. What sustained them was the reality of Christian community. They truly loved and cared for each other. Like the earliest Christians, they wanted to be known above all by their love, Christian works and mutual support.
(David Alan Black, The Jesus Paradigm, pg,. 40)
What sustained them was the reality of their community of love. The earliest church or the Anabaptists in the 16th century or the persecuted church in China all have the support of genuine community. Why do Chinese Christians gather together in the face of probably arrest? Why did the Anabaptists refuse to compromise with the state church at the risk of being burned at the stake or drowned? Because the community of believers is that important to them and that community supports itself when the world comes calling.
I think perhaps one of the big reasons we fear persecution in the Western church is that we have no real community to support us. Our basis for community is getting together a couple of hours a week and our names on a membership roll. We depend on our family or on our savings account or our rights as Americans. If we were in a pinch we could probably find someone in the local church to help us out, but that is often the last resort. We desperately need to recover Christian community for the days to come. Anyone can see that the easy, comfortable days of Christianity are rapidly coming to an end. When the world once again turns on the Way, who will be there to support us? We need the love and fellowship of other believers to endure persecution because persecution is not a possibility or a probability, it is an inevitable reality. That persecution holds little fear for those who have faith in Christ and community with other believers in Him.