“The apostles went away rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ, that they were graced so far as to be disgraced for the name of Christ!” – Thomas Watson
The 2016 movie Silence asks the question: what does it really cost to follow Jesus. The movie is based on a fictional novel by Shusaku Endo that portrays the suffering of Japan’s persecuted Christians in the 17th Century. The film and the book is about a time when Japan was closed to outside religions, especially Christianity. The government actively persecuted those who practiced the Christian faith.
The movie prompts deep questions about faith, mission, and suffering. Set in the seventeenth-century, the movie tells the story of two Portuguese Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in search of their mentor, Father Ferreira, and to minister to the persecuted Kakure Kirishitan (“Hidden Christians”) community in secret. The missionaries are prepared to risk their lives in the name of Christ. They are ready to be hunted, tortured, or killed. If caught by feudal lords or ruling samurai, they must renounce their faith or face a prolonged and agonizing death. The two priests faith is tested as the grand inquisitor forces them to denounce their faith or watch Christians be tortured and killed.
Silence is a gory, difficult, unsettling movie to watch. As Americans, it is hard to believe that such things went on, but they did. It is hard to believe that during the reign of emperor Nero, Christians were rounded up and put to death in the most horrific manner for the amusement of the citizens of Rome: Christians were nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. And it is hard to believe that in modern times Christians are still being persecuted, but they are.
Today, persecution is still a reality for many Christians all over the world. Pray for those in the midst of persecution. “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” (Hebrews 13:3) Pray that God would help every man and woman, boy and girl that is going through some form of persecution today. Pray that God would give them the strength to remain firm in their faith, despite any physical, emotional or psychological pain they may have to endure for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Pray that these believers will not only stay committed to the call of Christ, but also will respond in love to the evil shown by their aggressors.
- Are there ways that living as a Christian opens you up to persecution?
- Read Hebrews 13:3 and 1 Corinthians 12:26: Discuss what Christ wants us to do when we are aware of those who are persecuted for Him.