While You Can
“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 what I told you: ‘A servant is not 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
How has the public view of Christianity changed over the past few years in this country? Think about that question for a bit – the social aspects, the legislative aspects, in the media, in the education system, etc. In the courts, more and more decisions run contrary to Christian belief and morals – what this country and therefore Constitution were built on. In society, holidays that are traditionally Christian are becoming secularized. This past Christmas season, I scanned a tv guide, looking to see if any programs even addressed the reason for the celebration. The only program out of almost two weeks of scheduling that contained any mention of Christ was A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the media, evangelical Christians are being displayed as fanatics, crazy, pushy, old-fashioned, out of touch, stupid, arrogant, evil-willed, and everything like that. In the education system, students are barely allowed to hold Christian beliefs and act accordingly. (The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal alliance whose goal is to defend the Truth in society by upholding our Constitutional freedom of religion – their website contains many examples of this change of view on Christianity and just how it plays out. I highly encourage you to quickly browse their website, some of the examples are astounding.)
While this changing viewpoint of Christianity in America is not good and in some cases results in mild persecution, we have it pretty good over here – for now. In some countries, those who accept Jesus as Lord and declare it are imprisoned, beat, shunned, or even killed. That is persecution. Yet despite the persecution, Christianity is spreading – quickly. Why? Because it forces those on the fence to decide. Do they renounce their beliefs, or do they die for them? There’s no middle ground. The fact that they have to decide highlights the spiritual warfare – and why would there be warfare over it unless it were true and real? People see the commitment of persecuted believers – why would someone endure torture and shame and all sorts of punishment, and with joy even? People crave something real – and when Jesus Christ is real enough to someone for them to die for Him, people notice. Compare that level of commitment of followers of Christ to those who claim to be followers in America. A good portion of those who claim to be “Christian” don’t have any desire to know Christ any better. They don’t attend church regularly, let alone read the Bible, or seek God in prayer (different than “bless me, bless them, give me this, give me that, help me fix what I screwed up because I didn’t listen to you in the first place, Amen!” prayers). Many of those who do attend church treat it as a country club, or something out of obligation. Find them during the week, and you can’t tell who they follow – certainly not Christ though.
As humans, we have a tendency to seek God in the bad times, and reject Him in the good times. It happened time and time again in the nation of Israel, and it happens (if we don’t watch for it) in our lives. I know I’m prone to it. Right now, in America, things are still going decently well comparatively to the rest of the world. I believe this is a big reason why Christians over here are lax and lazy (I am guilty of this as well – I believe 99% of us are) and content where they are at spiritually, while in other countries people are sneaking out at night to home churches, knowing full well that if they are caught they can face many years in prison (generally much worse than prison in America). I do believe that persecution will continue to grow in America. I’m not going to guess on how bad it will be, but I’m confident that tough times are ahead. My predictions, going by the current trends: Churches will be shut down – especially those that preach from the Bible. The Bible will probably be hard or illegal to buy, unless it’s a very censored version – containing only positive, happy scriptures – certainly no statements of sin or judgment. Christian schools will be deemed as “religious indoctrination” and be closed, home-schooling will be illegal (it already is in Sweden). Witnessing to someone at work would probably get you fired, and making any statement against abortion, gay marriage, homosexuality, or any other sin would be considered a “hate crime” (we’re really close to that one). Home churches will be shut down due to legal ramifications (already happening in the U.S.), and be forbidden. The internet will be regulated (framework being set up) and anything “Christian”, probably including this blog, will be shut down and those trying to access Christian content will be tracked. Whether any of this comes true or not, I don’t know. It could happen in 5 years, or 50 years, or not at all. I will say though that I believe it can happen soon, if current trends continue.
So what do we do with this knowledge? Be scared and worry about it? No, absolutely not. The greatest teacher who ever lived (Jesus) said that worry won’t add a single hour to your life. What we should do with this knowledge is get serious about our commitment to Christ. Go to church while it’s legal and open. Learn there, get to know people there, get accountability partners. Join home groups through the church. Have fellowship with other believers. Get a study Bible with a concordance (allows you to search for verses by topic and keywords) so you can study by yourself. Download sermons from church websites that have them up for free – or some other extra teaching material. Just start growing spiritually while there’s easy access to all these materials. Reach out to your co-workers any way possible – ask if there’s anything they need prayer on, ask what they believe spiritually, talk while you can. Take advantage of the freedom we do enjoy in this country – it may be around for a while, but it may not be.
The BOTTOM LINE: commit yourself to growing in your faith now, as it might not be so easy later on. Don’t worry, but just act.