In 2015, we get to watch the United States gear up for quadrennial contest that ends up picking the leader of the free world. As I write this going into the fall of the year, there are at least 19 candidates in the race. Questions are being asked about sensitive topics, and people are being “offended” on cue. Just today, the 24-hour news channels are cackling about an “offensive term” that two candidates are using… Two opponents agree on using the same offensive phrase: “Anchor Baby”. Trump and Bush explained themselves the same way: there was no better way to say what they had to say.
The truth is, for Christians, there is no better way to say it: Christ is Lord. It is the same message that the Bible is all about, and the same message that Christians have bled and died for for 2000-years. None of us can change it. It is the Good News, from the Source of all love.
Today’s news inspired this article. It is about how Christians, who have an offensive message to bring the world, have to bring that message into a ridiculously offended world. Understanding where we are today, and applying Scripture to it, will give us the peace of perseverance.
What’s So Offensive about the Source of All Love?
God so loved the world that he gave His own son to die to pay the debt for our sin. His resurrection and ascension prove our everlasting life. It is THE good news. Non-believers would prefer we not repeat the Good News. All Christians were there, before we were saved. If you admit to God, you have to admit to sin. To have a false comfort, human beings have to remain in denial, and reject Jesus…vociferously. Christians need a daily reminder to prepare themselves for living in a broken, sinful world. The default position of our world is one inclined toward sin, degradation and evil. The Apostle Paul explains to the Roman church,
Romans 5:12-13 (NLT)
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.
Unsaved, human beings are not embodied with the Holy Spirit. We do not have the spiritual equipment to see and know God. That “God talk” makes no sense, and listening to it is frustrating to the unequipped. Once saved, Christians have the Spirit living inside them. They are in a position to know and learn the spiritual world around them. They can see the sin, evil and death that is in the world, as well as God’s light, and His hand.
Romans 8:5-8 (NLT)
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
God loves every person that He has made, whether they are chosen or not. Without getting into theological hair-splitting, it is safe to say that this world is a proving ground for our choice to accept His invitation or reject Him. Accept Him or reject Him, we still receive his provision and His love during this testing time. He is also holy and sovereign, and just as He cannot allow evil in His presence, His will doesn’t accept the impurity and sinfulness of the world’s people. But people are prideful, arrogant, and self-centered by nature.
Accepting a God that hates the prideful, arrogant and self-centered things we do is a tough pill to swallow. The Source of All Love is unchanging, we cannot horse-trade with Him, and we cannot put God in a box. All the things we try to do in our human relationships don’t apply in our relationship with God. Our pridefulness, self-centeredness and strong wills, while we can use them with humanity, are worthless toward God. We have to accept Him as He is. People find that very offensive.
What’s Different about Today?
We live in a society that has grown increasingly hostile toward God. In the 19th century, Europe had harbored, nurtured and exported their Enlightenment. Thinkers such as Locke, Montesquieu, and Paine popularized disdain toward the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, blaming institutional offenses of the state churches on the
Christian Faith. Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, and others wedged relativistic theories of evolution and psychology into the mainstream of thought, as the academic world pushed further and further away from God. Today, there is open hostility to any mention of God in government and on college campuses, where atheistic groupthink dominates and dissent means the end of a career. Using the tool of Political Correctness, dissenting thought and speech is run out of academia and government.
For a further understanding of how secularly humanism slowly, progressively crushed people of faith out of academia and government, I invite you to see my previous article: How Did America Get So Morally Divided?
We also have an illegitimate Grievance Industry that has co-opted many of the tools of the legitimate, righteous dissent from the Civil Rights Movement. Following Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, this industry has honed its “shakedown” skills of creating discord for political and financial purposes. Now, much of the Western World has become savvy toward the monetization of “offense”, and genuine, actual, legitimate offense has lost its power. The Grievance Industry has diluted and spun the credibility out of legitimate offense and redress.
Though neither hard sciences nor social sciences give any rational causation for homosexuality, at the behest of special interest groups, academia declared homosexuality “normal”. Suffice it to say, the Bible is abundantly clear that homosexuality is a sin, despite hollow attempts to spin Scripture for political gain. Homosexuality is a favorite wedge-issue of the academic left, because it creates an impossible binary choice between the liberal academic and God. This binary choice, and new laws criminalizing the religious liberty of Christians who follow the Bible’s teaching on homosexual activities and unions, creates a highly divisive hostility toward God. Now, belief in God can literally cost the believer the food on their plate.
Today, we have legitimate offense that is disempowered by the grievance industry, academic hostility to anything other than secular humanism, and the politicization and weaponization of homosexuality, all attacking Christians. Because of what is different today, Christians are actually in a better position than most realize. Persecution has proven, through history, to strengthen the resolve of the church.
Having an offensive message in a society that loves to be offended is where our faith earned its “stripes” in the early days of the church. In the last half of the Third Century, Roman Emperor Decius declared Christianity to be an enemy of the state. He ordered that the leadership of the Christians be hunted down and arrested. If they wouldn’t recant their faith, they were executed. Decius’ strategy failed, as PBS Frontline reports.
The net effect of this is that a new cult of the martyrs appears in Christianity, which strengthens the church, which feeds on anti-government sentiment in many segments of the empire, – those remote geographical areas distant from Rome which have always been suspicious of Rome. This simply brings those into the Christian fold and in many ways, it backfires.*
We, the people, trust God far more than we trust the man-made, corrupt state. Persecution has ebbed and flowed, and today, the persecution is in the “flow-cycle”. In the states that incubated the early church, beheadings are now broadcast for the entire world to see. In the “civilized” world, the persecution is custom-fit for our society. John MacArthur of The Master’s Seminary explains,
Today, Satan usually directs persecution not to a person’s physical body, but to his ego. He focuses on pride, the desire for acceptance, or the desire for status. That’s very effective. Satan doesn’t often threaten a Christian by saying, “If you witness, I’ll cut your head off.” He threatens a believer by saying, “If you witness, you might lose your job, your status–or someone might think you are strange.”**
Persecution is about “why”. It is hate directed at you because you hold fast to your Christian faith. You may be shunned, spoken ill of, or sued because you wouldn’t be forced to violate your faith. God promises us eternal salvation, and there is love and support inside the community of your church. As for trying to live without being persecuted for your faith, the answer is that the Word clearly teaches us to expect persecution. Accept it. Living your witness is the best way forward for the Christian. You will almost certainly, at some point, deal with persecution. We learn faith by dealing with and accepting the consequences of our faith. Perhaps, next to the crucifixion of Christ, one of the best lessons on this was taught by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, is son in the ministry:
2 Timothy 3:12-17 (NLT)
Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
For an in-depth, step-by-step guide to dealing with persecution, I invite you to see the Grace To You article by John MacArthur, How to Handle Persecution
MacArthur, John. “Grace To You – How to Handle Persecution.” gty.org. 8 22, 2015. http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5116/how-to-handle-persecution (accessed 8 22, 2015).
Meeks, Wayne. “Frontline – The Martyrs.” pbs.org. 4 1, 1989. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/why/martyrs.html (accessed 8 22, 2015).
Just in today, Nepal criminalizes sharing one’s faith