With the release of Episode 2 I want to look at a part of discipleship that isn’t often covered and ask a difficult question (wait, aren’t all questions difficult? At least to the asker? I mean, if the answer was obvious to you, you wouldn’t ask in the first place, would you? Hmm).
While researching for a future episode on heresy it got me thinking that maybe a reason we generally don’t know a lot about our religion is because we don’t have to; we’re rarely, if ever, called to defend it. Going back to an earlier post, Jeff From Work is unlikely to tell you that he’ll only become a Christian if you can answer his question about how verses on Hell contradict themselves.
My pastor in a recent sermon warned that being in a comfortable, happy place as a Christian is the most dangerous place for our faith (I can send you the link to the sermon if want that explained) and actually, the fact that we don’t suffer any persecution is weird and probably not good.
Let me explain…
The New Testament talks a fair bit about persecution with Jesus saying “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15 v18) and the writer of 2 Timothy says: “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (3 verse 12). So, erm, why aren’t we?
Now I realise some people will say that we are from New Atheists and the like, but they don’t attack us as people, but the idea of religion as a whole. No, what I mean is the people in our workplace or on our street.
Of course no one wants to attract persecution and for us to be social pariahs would make it impossible to ever share the Good News of Jesus, but consider why Christians get persecuted. Generally it’s because we are challenging the status quo, not going along with the crowd. The issue comes when people know what they’re doing is, to some extent, morally wrong and are not happy for that to be noted. If we’re all cheating then it’s OK, but if one person doesn’t, then we feel guilt (which we don’t want to) and we dislike that person for making us feel guilty and for, perhaps, stopping us doing that which we wanted.
1 Peter 4 says: “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;” (verses 3 – 4)
So here’s that difficult question, does a lack of persecution mean we’re doing it wrong? Perhaps. Maybe we’re hiding our light under a bushel (seriously, whatever that is, like a small bush? No, that would be a bushette) and we’re not exposing the sins around us, but maybe there is something worse at play…
What if no one cares?
There could be three reasons here,
- Christianity has become something of a joke. We’re often characterised by our far-right brethren and the creationists/young-earthers. Now I’m not saying that they are wrong, rather that through the eyes of scientists and such minded people, the idea of the Bible being right over science is laughable. I could bang on about why science doesn’t disprove God and how your average Joe doesn’t understand science (comment if you want a post on it), but the fact is that those average Joe’s find it easier to caricature a man in the sky with a white beard in the current scientific climate.
- We pick our battles poorly. Either that we pick battles that don’t really concern us or don’t pick them at all. I have, for most of my life, fallen into the second category. I’ve lived and let live and in believing we have to be ‘in the world’ I’ve been a bit too much ‘of the world’. We’ll come back to this in ‘Bullet Point 3 – Army of Darkness’, so for here let’s look at picking battles that don’t concern us.
In my lifetime there have been three major flashpoints where Christians have been in the news (long enough for it to define us to others) for fighting against something that goes against our moral code. they are, heavy metal being satanic (including ‘backmasking’); protesting (and sometimes bombing) abortion clinics and gay marriage. One thing I don’t see on the news is Christians fighting against the free and easy access to porn on the Internet and yet it is being shown to be destructive and addictive. All of these examples will take us against the zeitgeist and lead to persecution, but only the last one has the goal of stopping something harmful, something that we can point to factually making the world a worse place. The former three only deal with our Christian morality and don’t (as far as I can see) come under our mission from Jesus to make disciples.
3. Finally, and perhaps the most pervasive and insidious, is the liberalisation of the Christian message. The Bible has a see-saw with Loving God on one side and Wrathful God on the other and there is a tendency to shift most of the weight to the loving side. I mean, it doesn’t make sense that a loving God would want to punish, nay torture, people, does it? It’s also not so appealing to the non-Christians that we are trying to fill our churches, so we don’t concentrate on the ‘bad’ stuff. We also have a habit of showing Christianity at work through social justice. Which is great, I’m not saying that it isn’t, but when it becomes front and centre then we become wishy-washy. It’s helpful and it’s tame and it has nothing to do with God and eternity. We’re just do-gooders and that’s not offensive to anyone (except full-on James Bond villains). We live in a society where morals are subjective and the church seems to be trying to roll with that by not seeming too objective (at least not until we’ve got our claws into you), by playing down wrath and Hell and playing up the idea that it’s all OK as long as we’re saved through Christ. By trying to get bums on seats or playing to society, Jesus’ message has become watered down, inoffensive and therefore ineffective.
Let’s look at Jesus as He was two things:
- Straight down the line. Everything we preach comes from Him and He was clear that if you weren’t aboard the Disciple Ship then you were going to be in serious need of a dentist from all that gnashing. And though He was incredibly divisive and challenging He was still wildly popular and obviously a fun and charming guy (EDIT: all powerful deity) to be around. He wasn’t a sour puss and I think that comes from the fact that everything He did came from love and was expressed with love.
- He was persecuted for His preaching. It was offensive, as the light is offensive to the darkness. His very presence showed up the evils of the religious leaders and they killed Him for it.
If we’re truly disciples of Jesus then maybe we should expect persecution, not because we’re persecuting, but because our lives, our reaching for goodness, shows up the darkness in others that they wish to hide.
(The thoughts in this post are the authors only and do not necessarily represent those of BT or Beanyman.)
Do you agree? Disagree? Want to call me bad names? Start a conversation in the comments and together we can grow further.