Christianity is under attack. In this confused and manipulated world, the values and principles that were once clearly and dearly important and have remained unchallenged in society for decades are now fiercely threatened and facing extinction. Around the world, Christians have experienced persecution since the church began. Western nations have had a long time in the sun, but the darkness of deceit is bringing the fight up close as basic freedoms threaten to disappear and a troubled new cultural norm tears up the foundations.
How should Christians respond to this challenge?
- Do we march in the streets in protest at our ‘rights’ being removed?
- Do we admonish the politicians with a stern rebuke or threats of punitive action?
- Do we lobby the government to stop this menace to Christianity?
- Do we talk endlessly about all the bad happening and the bad people causing it?
- Do we get anxious, get mad, or perhaps even walk away?
- Do we unite – putting aside doctrinal and political differences to stand as one body, showing the world brotherly love for a change and see what God can do with a repentant and humble people?
Maybe each will have their own response according to God’s gifting. Maybe the church has a collective responseformed by all the brothers and sisters behind our leader and King – Jesus.
There are really only two choices we have as Christians – the same two options we’ve had since Adam: live by faith or live as a rebel. We know who the chief rebel is – he rebelled against God and lost. Jesus lived by faith and won – not just for himself, but for all mankind. By faith, we believe that his victory is already our victory. One the other hand , as a rebel, we believe we must fight to win – if God doesn’t do it, we’ll have to do it ourselves!
If we are a bit distant from God because of a troubled relationship with Him, then being a rebel comes naturally – it’s our default human response. It’s the response of the world.
If we respond as a rebel…
We want to deal with issues our own way. We reckon we know what’s going on. Anger, pride, spite, negativity, hatred, and bitterness are the attributes of that choice. We are not really rebelling against society or its biased laws that don’t conform to our ideals, we’re rebelling against God. Somehow, it’s all His fault and we’re annoyed. Society is going against God and we are the collateral damage! We have to fix it! We have to rally the troops – the ‘Christian Soldiers’ – and fix it!
But will we really change anything by rebelling – by (self)righteous hating, accusing, and fighting? We will only harm ourselves, and those around us…and no, nothing WE do will really alter the descent of the world. Maybe we might delay it a bit. Jonah tried that tactic, too, as did many other biblical figures.
Mostly God’s way doesn’t make much sense. So instead, we rely on our apparent wisdom and pray for Him to bless our plan of doing His work our way so now it makes sense – to us! We preach, we pray, we pay, and God will help us achieve success for Him.
We can barely comprehend the difference between God’s way and our ways.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.Isaiah 55:9
If we respond in faith and trust…
When, in humility, we defer to God’s wisdom and submit to Him, He gets the glory, and we share in it. Not a glory of “look what we did for God”, but a glory of seeing Him work through and in us to advance the true Kingdom – which is what He’s been doing all along! Yes, it’s usually barely perceptible, but He said He would not let the gates of hell close on the Church, His Son’s bride!
Let’s not even try to work out God’s plan of action, but simply resign ourselves to His wisdom, repent of our self-centred attitudes, and seek His will in prayer and fellowship – a fellowship of brothers and sisters who also are willing to put God first when it seems like He isn’t even looking or carefully monitoring our dread. How many Psalms have that theme?
I wonder why SO many Psalms do? What has God been trying to tell us for so long. So many Bible characters thought, “Woe is me,” “This is the end,” “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” “This isn’t fair!” There’s lots of pages and stories with those sentiments.
Jesus had his doubts, too, but he never failed in his dependency on the Father. He wavered, understandably, but his humble and obedient heart and spirit took him back to God. Jesus, made just like us, had his own will and he always had to realign his will with the Father’s. Several times he told us this; here’s a few:
I can do nothing on my own. … because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.John 5:30
I seek not to please myself but him who sent meMatthew 26:39
He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
Reorienting our will and desires with God’s is the primary challenge we all face – we always did, but it’s becoming more urgent. Just as Jesus faced his greatest test close to the end, we’ll also see an increased testing on our hearts and attitudes as time marches on.
In the days of his flesh, he offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered.Hebrews 5:7,8
Jesus could have relied on himself, trusting the input from his surroundings and his feelings and his instincts as a man under temptation. Yes, Jesus was saved from death every moment of every day, or the whole journey to the cross would be pointless. God worked in him to assist him in making it there flawlessly. Read those wonderful Hebrews 5 verses again and ponder it deeply, prayerfully, hopefully, and trustingly.
What we are experiencing is for a reason; just as Jesus was made complete through suffering and learned obedience, so we too have much yet to learn. It’s not just theory we can get from a textbook – we have to do the practical, too. The Bible is God’s inspired Word and our guide. It’s an encouragement for those God is working in, placing His spirit in our hearts and putting His words in our minds.
We already know persecution is part of the plan – not to punish us, but to test us, ready us, complete us. If that were the plan for God’s only Son, is our calling to live in God’s hand any different? Jesus must have thought, “No, this doesn’t make sense, there must be another way,” and he knew the plan! He still needed to trust, to wait, to rely on God to raise him from the dead, but first to actually get him to the cross without once putting his own will first!
Jesus knew it was all God’s doing.
God is always at work – drawing us to Himself.
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:6
That drawing includes challenges. Jesus was constantly in tight spots requiring the right words, the right actions, the right attitude. Always with temptation to use his trump card – the “Son of God” card or the “legion of angels” card! These are cards he never played, always deferring to the Father to abide in His will and power. It’s the same for us. We cannot fight on our own against the spiritual powers that oppose good. There is no need, no point. The victory happened about 2000 years ago.
Persecution is promised. What can we glean from the Bible to deal with it wisely?
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.Matthew 5:11
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curseRomans 12:14
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.Proverbs 15:1
Jesus stood up for what was right. But in doing so, he was respectful and truthful. He was very “political” in his never-ending dialogue about the new Kingdom and that it wasn’t part of this world.
One of Christianity’s weakest links is hypocrisy: we often seem to say one thing and do the opposite. Everyone knows the Bible says to pray for your enemies and the leaders over us. Do we? Or do we criticise, admonish, belittle, mock, hate, and curse them? That’s the rebel in us at work. That’s not God. That’s not trusting and prayerfully waiting and asking for a repentant heart and the actions to suit it.
I often think of the things Jesus said. Not just what he said, but of the impact those carefully-chosen and inspired words, the words of the Father, had on those fortunate enough not just to hear, but to listen. They made people think, ponder, and question the norms of the day. Can our words have a similar impact? If God provides them, they will!
Let’s pray for the words we need and the opportunity to say them. Little do we know of the hearts and hurts, the passions and hopes of our community and national leaders; but God knows perfectly, just as He has redirected us and told us to preach the gospel – not just with words, but with lives. And not our lives, but the life of Christ within us as Paul describes. If we have his life, we should have his words!
I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.Galatians 2:20
Jesus didn’t fight the powers around him…he went to his death at their hand! The Jews were under the Roman empire, but they hated Jesus more than the Romans! Jesus dealt with the politics of the Temple, showing the hypocrisy of the leadership and the peoples’ needs for proper vision, hope, and purpose by speaking the truth with wisdom and the “sword of the spirit”.
What is the gospel but a message of hope, of love, of truth expressed with mercy and grace…the wisdom of a Godly life? It’s pointless spruiking the truth and living lives apart from it. I think God would rather we just shut up until we get it together…or we let Him put us together properly.
In the last days difficult times will come. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant… 15you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus… 16for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness 17so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:1-2, 15, 17
what persecutions, and sufferings I endured… and out of them all the Lord rescued me!2 Timothy 3:11
There is no opportunity for God’s rescue if we’re trying to do it ourselves! Let’s search out what it means to live by faith and trust. The rebel bit we have tried to death; it’s time for something new!