Not long ago I followed up on a news report about military saber rattling by North Korea, and realized I knew very little about that country, which is so often described as unpredictable and is isolated from much of the world community. While I was aware that there were serious humanitarian problems, I was unaware of the existence of death camps, which are generally believed to hold 150,000 to 200,000 people. Torture is routine and people, once admitted, are often not expected to walk free. Appalled by this discovery, I turned at once to prayer.
My prayers brought to mind an incident that happened after Jesus’ crucifixion. The disciples were in a room with the doors shut, fearing for their lives. The walls and door were solid, and yet the Bible reports, “Then … came Jesus and stood in the midst” (John 20:19). The love between the Master and his students was such that nothing could separate him from them.
Jesus’ teachings certainly made clear the universality of God’s love for all His children. Whether people are Christians, of another faith group, or of no faith tradition, every child, man, and woman has an inherent relationship with the living God. In the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible, we read: “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (1:31). This goodness includes all of us no matter where we are or who we are, but in no way does it excuse evil behavior. In fact, quite the opposite. When we begin to understand the universal nature of God’s love, we are better able to pray effectively and help head off evil. God’s love, affirmed in prayer, opens paths for goodness that did not seem to be there before.
Here’s an example. When Paul and Silas healed a woman in the name of Jesus Christ, her masters were angered and took the two men to the magistrates. These officials had the two men whipped, beaten, and held in chains in “the inner prison” (see Acts 16:16-40).
Their response to these circumstances might seem surprising. “At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” What happened next is even more surprising: “[S]uddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.”
One would suppose that they would have taken the opportunity to run away as fast as they could, but they didn’t. The prison guard, knowing he would face brutal consequences if the prisoners escaped on his watch, was about to fall on his own sword when “Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” The profound love of this act caused the prison guard to instead fall down before Paul and Silas trembling. He was acting not out of fear of danger as had been his thought only moments before, but from a profound recognition of the power of the redeeming love of Christ.
The account continues, “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized.” He then brought them to his own home and fed them — “believing in God with all his house.” When daylight came, the magistrates sent word that they should be released and sent on their way.
The story doesn’t end there. Paul said of the officials who had imprisoned them, “They have beaten us openly uncondemned … and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily?” Paul demanded that they come themselves to get them. In this way, the two men were released, and the sins of false government were also brought to light.
This is obviously a vastly different situation from the one in North Korea. The law of God, however, is not at all different. Paul and Silas knew the saving grace of God. They knew its power to save is not just in the hereafter but here and now. It heals the sick and can set people free from even “the inner prison.”
The precious people of North Korea may not be in a position to sing praise to God as Paul and Silas sang, but we can sing for them. In the quiet of holy prayer, we can recognize that the law of God is in effect for them. No matter how well guarded the North Korean concentration camps may be by walls of guns, land mines, and electric fences, nothing can keep out Almighty God, divine Love. We can have faith to witness for the people of North Korea the promise of certain liberty. Vigilant in prayer, we can even dare to hope to see this without bloodshed.
Nothing can wall out Christ, Truth. God’s love for His people is stronger than evil could ever pretend to be. “[W]here the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Corinthians 3:17). God is ever present; and where God is, He necessarily has the final word – even in North Korea.