Korea has been in the news a lot this past year. First Psy decided to invade music charts, and minds, everywhere with the song Gangnam Style and now the tensions of the peninsula are being ratcheted up by bellicose rhetoric from the North. When I think of the Republic of Korea, however, I don’t think first of that horse riding style dance, or of the DMZ and the military tensions; when I think of Korea I think of revival. I think of a nation where 1 in 3 people are Christians and where many of the worlds largest churches are found. There are so many churches, most of which display a red neon cross, that some people have complained about the amount of crosses visible on the skyline.
A hundred years ago there were hardly any Christians in Korea, less than one percent. It would be tempting to dismiss that as a trivial number but that would be to underestimate what God can do with a few faithful servants. Now there are millions of believers, the largest churches in the world are in Seoul, and the Church is still growing. I have a friend from Newcastle who went to Korea to teach English and is now not only saved but a passionate believer. If we look at the growth of the Christian church in South Korea we see that the values of it have influenced culture, the rights of women and children have improved, and society has been completely transformed within the past fifty years or so. South Korea is a country in revival.
Troubles like those on the Korean peninsula at the moment can be confusing for us as Christians. I believe in a God for whom no one is beyond redemption, for whom no society is too pagan, secular, or evil, to be transformed. I’m also a guy, and one who studied history at that, while part of me is hoping for God to move and to sort this mess out the other part of me is wondering if there is a first strike scenario that can eliminate the regime without causing war or civilian casualties.
My wondering about the military side of things does not mean I like war, far from it, but I have dear friends in South Korea whom I wish to be safe and my human nature is to wonder about what solutions can best make that happen. It is, however, misguided. It is a belief that our human thinking can find the solution instead of the step of faith that it takes to accept that God knows best and that His answers are invariably better than ours. No matter what happens over coming weeks, months, and years, no matter how the problem of Kim Jong Un is eventually addressed, as Christians our response needs to be to pray.
Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
– Ephesians 6:18
Seeing the trouble and tension in Korea makes me think of the vital need to pray for our brothers and sisters who place their faith on God. They’re part of the global church family and that puts a responsibility on all of us to remember them, to be Aaron and Hur lifting up their arms in prayer. Prayer involves accepting that we can’t fix problems ourselves and acknowledging that God can. However, there is more to biblical statements on prayer than having to pray for the saints, we have to pray for those we perceive to be our enemies too.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
– Matthew 5:44
This is difficult. I don’t know if you’ve ever knelt down to pray for a despot but let me tell you it can be really hard to find the words when your flesh is trying to wonder if a tomahawk can fit through his letterbox. But do it we must, if we want to pray like Christ. If we decide that someone or somewhere is beyond the scope of redemption then we need to look at the bible. We’re talking about the God who could send one, reluctant and moody, man called Jonah into the heart of the most evil and debauched city on earth and transform the whole place. We’re talking about the God who could watch His own people abandon Him and serve false Gods and idols, behaving like unfaithful lovers, and then respond by sending His Son to die for them, for us.
North Korea is not beyond hope and nor is Kim Jong Un, they’re just harder to pray for because they’re the ones with the guns pointed at our friends. So what are we going to do? Like Jonah do we run from what is required of us, or do we drop to our knees and pray? Pray for a situation that even the best analysts can’t see a solution too, pray that somehow God can show that His hand of protection is on our family in South Korea and outwork His redemption and revival in the North to transform their society in a similar way.
What is impossible with man is possible with God.
– Jesus Christ
The way the situation is presently balanced? That is a pretty huge ask. It’s a good job that we have a God who likes to do big things, a God whose power is unlimited. I find the possibilities breathtaking. Our fellow Christians cannot lose, once you give your life to Jesus the option of you “losing” is taken off the table because every possible outcome to life involves your salvation, but what if we could see a generation of Christians pray in such a way that we saw the world change? God is not afraid to reach down and intervene on behalf of his people, but usually we’re too afraid to ask. Let’s ask the impossible and expect it to happen.