Sorrow & Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom

by William D. Taylor, Antonia van der Meer, and Reg Reimer, editors.

William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104, 568 pages, 2012, $29.99.

Reviewed by J. Keith Bateman, who served for fifteen years as a missionary in Africa, seven of them in Sudan, and since 2007 has served as U.S. director of Middle East Christian Outreach (MECO).

This is a book about the call that nobody wants: the call to suffer for the cause of Christ. It is unwanted not only because suffering by definition is costly and often painful, but because far from being an aberration, both this book and God’s word remind us that persecution in one form or another is to be the normal expectation of all who choose to be true Christ followers.

Sorrow & Blood
is a compilation of sixty-nine essays by missiologists from around the world. This is at the same time both its strength and its weakness. On the one hand, it gives a much-needed broader perspective to a subject with which few in the West have any real practical understanding or experience. At the same time, this very broadness leaves it susceptible to that which most attempts to be inclusive tend to fall prey—namely, it can lead to assumptions which may, or may not, be entirely justified.

Specifically, as one might expect per its title, virtually every chapter contains, in one form or another, some kind of definition of what constitutes Christian persecution. But largely assumed, and thus left unanswered by virtually every contributor, is the question of exactly who are the persecuted. Are they truly Christ followers, or as is often the case in a place such as Sudan where I have lived and worked, is it simply an appellation in contra-distinction to being Muslim? In both cases, the adherents may suffer as a result of carrying the title. But as Jesus so pointedly reminded us (c.f. Matt. 7:21-23), no matter how noble the deed or costly the sacrifice (for indeed, virtually every religion has those willing to suffer for their beliefs), to truly qualify as Christian persecution one must first truly be a Christian.

That aside, this book is valuable if for no other reason than it serves as a reminder that persecution is not confined to “other” places and people, nor something yet to happen in the “end times.” It is very real and present. But even that strength can be a weakness if little more is accomplished than simply added discussions and symposiums about this painful subject. At the very least it should goad those of us who are not suffering persecution to become advocates for those who are. It is the least we can do.

Check these titles:

Metaxis, Eric. 2010. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson.

Moeller, Carl and David Hegg. 2011. The Privilege of Persecution. Chicago: Moody.

Platt, David. 2010. Radical. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books.

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