After the invasion, church meetings became illegal. Only twelve persons of the once thriving congregation were willing to risk imprisonment and even death for a bible study. Persecution always separates the sheep from the goats.
Clark sat at the head of the table, head down, running his fingers over the leather cover of his bible. He was the fearless leader, allowing the group to meet at his home every week. Jesse took his usual seat next to him. The group sat in silence waiting for Clark to open the meeting in prayer.
Suddenly, the door burst open, slamming against the wall. The thud echoed through the house like thunder. The women screamed in terror as enemy troops stormed into the house, their trigger-happy fingers waving automatic weapons.
“Stay in your seats!” the captain shouted.
They sat in stunned silence until the captain motioned for Clark to rise. The women began to cry uncontrollably, fearing the worst.
Clark cleared his throat and addressed the group, “Friends, settle down. There is no need to panic.”
Jesse could not believe what was happening. Clark had betrayed them.
Clark continued, “The churches will reopen tomorrow. The governor has commanded all races, creeds, and religions to be in unity. Our world is changing. We cannot tolerate intolerance. We, as Christians, must be an example of love in this new world order.”
He paused, looking around the room as eyes wide with fear and shock looked back at him.
“Please, brothers and sisters, be reasonable. We will be able to worship our own God but we cannot force our views on others.”
Jesse wondered where he was going with this rhetoric.
“Christianity has been deemed a peaceable religion with only one small stipulation. You may say that Jesus is the Son of God, but you may not say that He is God. To do so would be to attack every other religion on the face of the earth.”
Christians, soldiers, and traitor all stood looking at one another.
A soldier approached Greta Brown. “Deny that Jesus is God and you may leave unharmed.”
Greta remained silent until he put a knife to her throat.
“Jesus is not God. He is only the Son of God,” she shouted.
Greta was escorted to the door.
The enemy went around the table, giving all present an opportunity to deny the deity of Christ. Their mission was successful, but one man remained. The circle of believers ended with Jesse.
Jesse looked into the eyes of the man before him, peering into the fathomless depths of hell. Swallowing his fear he cried out, “I know that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is God.”
The blow of the rifle butt sent him sprawling to the floor.
Clark, his friend and neighbor for 25 years, came to his side. “Jesse, don’t be foolish. They will kill you if you say that.”
Jesse grasped the edge of the table and pulled himself to his feet. Wiping the blood from his face with his shirtsleeve he said, “You gotta die sometime, Clark.”
“Be reasonable Jess. You can still preach Jesus; just not that he is God. Stop being religious and save your life, man. What is wrong with you?”
“Clark, religion has nothing to do with it. I know what the Bible says, ‘For a child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us… And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace.’* The child born in the manger is God. I cannot deny anything written in this book.”
Clark backed away and Jesse knew his testimony was nearing its end. In the last moments of his earthly pilgrimage, Jess looked into the eyes of every man present. “I forgive you,” he said. “With all my heart, I forgive you.”
The young man before him raised his rifle. In an instant, Jess crossed over into eternity.
Jesse rested in the loving embrace of his Father. “Welcome home, son. You were faithful unto death. I will give you a crown of life.”
Clothed in brilliant white, Jesse joined the chorus at the altar, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you avenge our blood?”
The Savior’s voice sounded as a trumpet across the heavens, “Just a little while longer until your brothers who will be murdered come home too.”**
**Paraphrased from Revelation 6.
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