Written by a Romanian Jew, translated into 65 languages, distributed throughout the world (by the millions), used by the Vietnamese house church as a survival guide after the fall of South Vietnam, Tortured for Christ continues to strike the warning bell for Western Christians that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” In fact, it has been granted to us to suffer for the name of Christ. (Philippians 1:29)
The first time I opened the pages of this book, which was several years ago, I felt the impact of every poignant sentence, every soul-searching paragraph. As the words lodged themselves in my heart, I knew this was a title that I would revisit yearly, especially as one who lives on the enchanted ground of America with its soporific effect. As difficult a read as Tortured for Christ is, I know it provides a much-needed antidote for my sometimes lethargic and half-hearted soul.
From the time of his childhood, Richard Wurmbrand embraced atheism, but his denial of God left him empty and searching. One day he prayed to the God whose being he denied and told Him it was His duty to reveal Himself, if He existed at all. About the same time, a village carpenter prayed that God would allow him to lead a Jew to Christ before he died. Wurmbrand says that he was irresistibly drawn to the particular village where this carpenter lived and gave his life to Christ after the man witnessed to him. Later, his wife also trusted in Christ.
As a prelude to the communist takeover of Romania, the Nazis spread their terror and torture, which helped prepare the Christians for the looming threat on their horizon. Romania filled up with Russian prisoners from the war, men who Wurmbrand passionately evangelized. Soon, the Nazis exited and the communist invaded, making the suffering under Nazism appear as a stroll in the park. Sadly, many church leaders succumbed to the propaganda of their communist overlords, but Wurmbrand saw the seduction for what it was and refused to join the party.
Wurmbrand pastored one of many underground churches and took every opportunity to bravely share the Gospel with Russian soldiers. Then, in February of 1948, a van pulled up along side Wurmbrand as he walked to church, grabbed him off the street, and hauled him away to prison where he would remain for 8 1/2 years. Wurmbrand writes, “The prisons were full, and in Romania, as in all communist countries, to be in prison means to be tortured.”
Wurmbrand explains the cruelty of atheism this way: “When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man.”
He, along with countless other Christians, experienced those depths day after day until their bodies surrendered to death or their prison term ended. In many cases, including Wurmbrands, there were only short interims between prison stays where once again the daily rhythms of unspeakable torture resumed. This time, the days added up to 5 1/2 years.
I try to put myself in Pastor Wurmbrand’s place, something I find inescapable with the reading of this book. When stripped of everything I hold precious—family, home, church, health—would I be praising the God of heaven or wallowing in self-pity? Would the beatings leave me firm in the faith or willing to betray my fellow Christians, or worse? While pondering the many years of imprisonment and separation from his wife and son, Wurmbrand described his experience with words that only a deep love for Christ could produce.
I don’t feel frustrated too have lost many years in prison. I have seen beautiful things. I myself have been among the weak and insignificant ones in prison, but have had the privilege to be in the same jail with great saints, heroes of faith who equaled the Christians of the first centuries. They went gladly to die for Christ. The spiritual beauty of such saints and heroes of faith can never be described.
Tortured for Christ contains many heart stirring as well as thought provoking passages worth contemplating.
Whereas in the East, Communists are disappointed and have lost their illusions, in the West a “humanistic communism” has remained virulent. The Western humanists/Communists simply do not believe all the bad reports about the cruelties, the misery, and the persecution in Communist countries. They spread their faith with tireless zeal everywhere, in the lounges of the upper classes, in the clubs of intellectuals, in colleges, in the slums, and in churches. We Christians are often half-heartedly on the side of the whole truth. They are wholeheartedly on the side of the lie.
I tremble because of the sufferings of those persecuted in different lands. I tremble thinking about the eternal destiny of their torturers. I tremble for Western Christians who don’t help their persecuted brethren.
Everything in these countries and other kinds of captive nations—radio, television, cinema, theater, press, and publishing houses—has the aim of stamping out belief in Jesus Christ.
When I talk to a communist about Christ, the deepest spiritual need in his heart is my ally—my helper. The greatest difficulty for him is not to answer my arguments. His great difficulty is to quiet the voice of his own conscience, which is on my side.
Never imagine a prison as in the West when you hear about a sentenced brother in a restricted nation. Prison there means starvation, torture, and brainwashing.
Hear the cries of your brothers and sisters in captive nations! They do not ask for escape, safety, or an easy life. They ask only for the tools to counteract the poisoning of their youth—the next generation—with atheism.
When a Christian goes to prison—and often to torture and death—the suffering only begins. His family suffers endlessly. . .. More martyrs are being made all the time. Though they go to their graves and to their reward, their families live in horribly tragic conditions. We can and must help them.
Tortured for Christ is similar to In God’s Underground, another book written by Pastor Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs. The latter delves more into Wurmbrand’s prison experience whereas Tortured for Christ focuses more on the evils of Marxism and the importance of the Western church in advocating for persecuted believers.
The book is published by Living Sacrifice Book Company and contains 169 pages. You can purchase it here.
A movie of Richard Wurmbrand’s life, Tortured for Christ, will be released in Spring 2018. The trailers below will give you a glimpse into this dear brother’s suffering.
For the children in your life, I highly recommend the Torchlighters “Heroes of the Faith” DVDs. You can purchase the Richard Wurmbrand Story here. Watch the preview below.