As we celebrate All Saints’ Day this week (it falls on November 1 but it is also observed this coming Sunday), we focus on the universal church and on what is called the Communion of Saints, the union we have with all those who have put their trust in Jesus from every people and language and tribe and nation—those still on earth, and those who have gone before us in ages past.
On All Saints’ Day we read from Revelation Chapter 7, which shows us a picture of a multitude in heaven. The question is asked, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” And the answer is given, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13, 14). These are the saints who have endured great suffering for Christ and the blood of the Lamb has washed them clean. All Saints’ Day invites us to consider the cost of following Jesus, the price we must pay if we are to be faithful to the one who gave his life for us.
I am currently reading the monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who saw the real threat that Adolph Hitler posed to his nation and to the Church. When others were prepared to accommodate the Church’s teaching to the ideology of the Third Reich, Bonhoeffer saw the implications of compromise with a false Gospel. His deep commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ is reflected in such timeless works as The Cost of Discipleship and, having counted the cost himself, he was executed in the Flossenburg concentration camp shortly before the end of the war.
As we face growing challenges to biblical faith in Christ, we have much to learn from the experience and witness of the suffering Church around the world, those who are standing firm for Jesus in places like Sudan and Egypt and Northern Nigeria. Let us never fail to pray for these saints with whom we are one in Jesus. And let’s also pray for God’s grace to stand as firmly and as sacrificially for the Gospel in our own culture.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey