Thursday, June 21, 2012

When the World Hates Us: What to Do?

The West is plunging into anarchy and sexual pleasure seeking, and the church has become the fall-guy. Preaching our biblically-based message against sin is no longer tolerated. Military chaplains are even warned against invoking “God” – let alone “Jesus” -in their prayers. The Apostle Paul wrote about these times:

·        But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)

What does the church do in these times, especially in light of the growing intolerance and persecution? For one thing, we have to be mentally prepared. Paul counseled the church that persecution was inevitable:

·        In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Tim. 3:12-13)

Jesus also warned about the inevitability of persecution:

·        "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also (John 15:18-20)…in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” (16: 2)

While it is so distressing to see the younger Christians re-making the church into a “kinder and gentler,” more indulgent, and socially acceptable “Christianity,” we have to remember Jesus words: “If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”

These are the “compromisers.” They understandably feel the sting of social censure of the church. However, they are willing to compromise in order to achieve social respectability. They try to show the world that they are not like those “mindless evangelicals” who reject Darwin and the other things that the educated, upwardly mobile gladly embrace. For them, to be hated by the world is a sign of our narrow-mindedness. Consequently, they feel that we deserve the disapproval that we are receiving.

However, there is another group that believes that the church can sidestep the persecution and still remain the church. These are the “silencers.” Although they are reluctant to modify any major Christian doctrine, they believe that we can keep our offensive doctrines to ourselves and not offend the prevailing culture. They may argue that we are called to preach the Gospel and not opposition to our cultural ills. However, preaching the Gospel – the Good News – also entails an understanding of the bad news, sin and its consequences.

Others talk in terms of forsaking the “culture wars.” Blogger and self-confessed evangelical, Rachel Held Evans, is a good example of this:

·        We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.

·        So my question for those evangelicals leading the charge in the culture wars is this: Is it worth it? Is a political “victory” really worth losing millions more young people to cynicism regarding the Church? Is a political “victory” worth further alienating people who identify as LGBT?...And is a political “victory” worth drowning out that quiet but persistent internal voice that asks—what if we get this wrong?
Evans is understandably concerned about “alienating” the sinner. But whenever we preach against sin, we run the risk of alienating the sinner! What then do we do, especially as society turns so angrily against the Gospel message? Also, Evans wonders “what if we got it wrong?” Well, there’s no better authority than the Bible. Here’s Paul’s advice to Timothy:

·        But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:14-17)

Scripture cannot be compromised; neither should it be silenced. The Gospel is still the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). But perhaps we have to keep it in-house so as not to offend? Perhaps we need to abdicate the public arena for a while? Not according to Paul:

·        Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:2-4)

The myths – culture and moral relativism there is no absolute moral truth), evolution (everything coming uncaused out of nothing), materialism, naturalism (there is no design or intelligence outside of this world), one-world-consciousness, create-your-own-religion -  have certainly proliferated, along with an inexhaustible smorgasbord of teachers. However, nowhere does Scripture even suggest that when we see this happening, we should cover ourselves with silence. We are to be the “light” and the “salt” “in season and out of season.”

Paul admits that already, he is “being poured out like a drink offering” (2 Tim. 4:6). His end is at hand. However, he never counsels that other Christians should do their best to avoid such a fate, shutting their mouths.

John and Peter had been forbidden by the ruling court – the Sanhedrin – from publicly preaching Christ. Although they had been beaten:

·        The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:41-42)

The Apostles were a far cry from our compromisers and silencers. Oh Lord, let us have such conviction!





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