Thursday, March 5, 2009

TORTURED FOR CHRIST by Richard Wurmbrand

Tortured for Christ (originally published in 1967; revised and re-released in 1997) is an autobiography by Richard Wurmbrand, founder of the nonprofit organization Voice of the Martyrs, which works to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians around the world.

Wurmbrand was a Romanian who converted to Christianity as an adult and became a minister. When the Soviet Union occupied Romania, Wurmbrand was arrested for evangelizing, and spent a total of fourteen years in prison, where he was tortured and beaten. Upon his release, he came to the West and founded what became The Voice of the Martyrs.

Tortured for Christ is a short book (150 pages), and Wurmbrand glosses over many events and leaves out many details that would help the reader put his story together more concretely. Wurmbrand splits these limited pages among giving the broad strokes of his life, offering his thoughts on persecution and witness to Communists, and discussing and condemning the atheistic policies of the Communist governments.

Wurmbrand displays an astonishing love toward his persecutors. He bears them no animosity, no violence, no wish for harm – only love and forgiveness. He says, “Only love can change the Communist and the terrorist” (p. 57). This selfless love, this relinquishing of the “right” to get even or bear a grudge, allows God to work in the hearts of the oppressors. And this has a universal application to anyone that we as Christians might call “enemy”. To Wurmbrand, these individuals were not his enemies – the sin and the evil ideology were.

Wurmbrand calls out Western Christians in a very serious way. After World War II, Wurmbrand says, the West unwittingly helped oppressive Soviet regimes take power in much of Europe. The Communists hijacked Christianity in these countries and turned the organized church into a Communist tool. Wurmbrand, having spent most of his life in an environment where being a confessing Christian could get a person jailed, tortured and killed, found Western Christians profoundly lukewarm. And many of them he found uninterested in helping those suffering persecution.

Tortured for Christ provides a truly eternal perspective on life. Western Christians, even the most generous of them, are attached to their things and their lifestyles. The thought of losing literally everything is terrifying, yet those in Wurmbrand’s boat have accepted this lot with joy. And this is why the Church has, historically, thrived under persecution.

Wurmbrand said that Tortured for Christ “has no literary value. It was written in only three days shortly after my release from prison. But it was written with pen and tears. And for some reason, God has chosen to bless this writing and use it for His purpose” (p. 7). This is a fair assessment – the message is important enough to outweigh the book’s literary flaws.

Tortured for Christ is recommended to any Christian who is interested in what’s going on in the world, or is looking for some real perspective on life.