Monday, June 22, 2009

6/22- Calvin speaking for the persecuted

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

6/23- Caring for those persecuted in other countries

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more , and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. (I Thessalonians 1:3,4- Paul’s letter to those who were persecuted in Thesalonika)

Calvin (1537 letter to Ministers of Basle): Not very long ago we had obtained letters from the town councils of Strasbourg and Basle, by which the safety and personal security of all those, who were then imprisoned throughout France on account of religion, was commended to the care of Count William. That eminent person, as was reported, had obtained of the king that they should all be set at liberty. We rested secure in this expectation, until word was brought to us, that the fire of persecution was again raging in that quarter. Two persons have been burnt, concerning the manner of whose death you will hear from the eye-witness himself, for he can relate to you in Latin what he has narrated in detail to us. Many have been thrown into prison, who are in jeopardy of their lives, unless timely opposition is made to the fury of those who, already drunk with the blood of these two victims, are not otherwise at all likely to set any bounds to their persecuting spirit. The two who suffered have shown a remarkable spirit of constancy to the very last, although their patient endurance of suffering was tried with the most exquisite cruelty. Of a truth, we may question whether the same strength of mind will be found in the others. Relief, therefore, ought to be brought to them in their present exigency, if anyhow it can be supplied, lest those may break down who are weaker in the faith. Besides, the utmost care must be taken that the blood of the godly, which is so precious in the sight of God, may not be lightly esteemed by us. We hear that a treaty was lately agreed upon by your Rulers with our King, in which some mention was made of religion, to the effect that henceforth those who agree with yourselves in their sentiments of religion,
should not be punished with the wonted severity. If that is true, we must not allow so favorable an opportunity of helping the brethren to escape unimproved, unto whose assistance Christ is not only calling us with a loud voice, but complains that he is deserted and forsaken by us when they are deserted. Wherefore, most excellent and pious brethren, devote yourselves entirely to this cause, according to the Christian sincerity of your heart; because we are confident you will do this of your own accord, we do not press you more urgently upon the matter. Take measures, therefore, with your council, that the subject may be brought under their consideration
effectually and in earnest, and with as much brevity as possible, so that these furious men may not be able to counterwork you.

There is controversy today about how much an American government should say to uphold those protesting a violent (perhaps nuclear-violent) Iranian government. Calvin was often asked what to do about persecuted Protestants who were being brutalized, beaten, and killed. Calvin was not someone to foment open rebellion. However, he was for using legal means to protest wrong-acting government. The letter above was an example. He wrote to rulers and ministers in Basle to try to get them to find a way to relieve the persecuted Protestants in France. Calvin welcomed refugees from these persecuted lands, and was minister to the refugees in Strasburg, and Geneva for awhile. He was constantly writing to authorities to appeal for the protection of those who were to be persecuted. He did not neglect them, but used every legal means possible to be merciful to them. Calvin wrote many letters to the persecuted, to their rulers (the Institutes were written to Francis I of France), and to other rulers to try to find help for them. It was only after Calvin’s death that the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre could take place. So, our government too, should not be neglectful of those who are being de-humanized by persecution and violence, yet within legal means. It does not hurt to protest, and to find diplomatic avenues of relief to those who are facing tough times. We as Christians, should also care for other human beings who are so degraded. Whenever we hear of human beings in famine or holocaust-like events like Rwanda or Darfur, we would do well to at the least pray, and look for legal ways with our own government to ease their pain. There are about 6,000 Presbyterian in Tehran and they probably are not for the current regime. Usually there are Christian organizations who are on hand in times of crises and disasters to lend a hand to those who are hurting. I think Calvin would like that too.

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