American Christians are starting to get little uncomfortable.
No, we aren't suffering intense persecution like our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. We aren't being driven from our homes or exiled from our communities. We aren't martyrs, and we shouldn't pretend that we are. We're just getting a little uncomfortable, which just might be a good thing.
As we watch our culture rapidly and radically shift, it’s clear that holding to the historical teachings of Christianity is going to become increasingly difficult.
Holding to biblical convictions regarding human sexuality and gender, the sanctity of preborn life, and even sharing our faith with others, is no longer considered to be simply unpopular, backward, narrow-minded, or intolerant--it’s considered morally wrong.
To be anti-abortion is to hate women. Holding to a biblical definition of gender and sexuality is as twisted and bigoted as racism itself. To many in our culture, the Christian faith is an oppressor group designed to maintain power for the privileged.
To be a Christian is to be a bigot.
To be a Christian is to be an oppressor.
These ideas are already present and growing in our culture. And if it continues in its current direction, your next-door neighbor might see you, not simply as weird or religious, but evil at worst and delusional at best.
Don’t Panic, It’s All Part of the Plan
American Christians aren’t used to this. We’ve enjoyed the privileges of living in a country where freedom of religion is revered and protected. And while we may naturally panic when we see these rights jeopardized, we really shouldn't.
What we have enjoyed in America, when viewed through the lens of world history, is the exception, not the norm. So, from a broader perspective, Christians aren’t experiencing a “crisis” in this country; we’re experiencing a return to normalcy. Christians all around the globe experience persecution and hardship far worse than anything we experience here in America. And while we shouldn't adopt a martyr complex or consider ourselves to be victims of intense persecution, it's important for us to know how to biblically navigate the increasing level of opposition against Christianity in our culture.
Scripture clearly tells us that we can fully expect the culture to label us as evil for what we believe:
The world will consider Christians to be “evildoers” who should be spurned, hated, excluded, slandered, reviled.
It’s normal for us to wonder, “How am I supposed to be a witness when everyone thinks I’m on the wrong side of history,” or, “How will anyone be drawn to Jesus if they think I’m a hateful bigot,” but at the very least, we must acknowledge that God knew this was coming and assured us that it would.
Leap for Joy and Stay Faithful
How should Christians respond?
Jesus’s instruction in Luke 6:23 is unexpected: “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy.” Really? Shouldn’t we fight back? Shouldn’t we stand up for our rights? Yes, as US citizens we have the privilege of voting for policies and politicians who protect our values. And we have the liberty to legally speak up against opposition, as all citizens do. But the right to oppose policies as an American citizen does not negate the Scriptural command to “rejoice in that day, and leap for joy.”
I don’t see many leap-for-joy Christians right now. What I do see is a lot of worry, fear, uncertainty, and even anger. Yes, it’s appropriate for us to be concerned about what’s happening in our country, but not to the point of wallowing or worrying.
Rejoice in what is happening! Leap for joy when you are excluded and called “evil on account of the Son of Man”! Why? Jesus tells us: “For behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:23).
When they “speak against you as evildoers” (1 Peter 2:12) and when they “revile your good behavior in Christ” (1 Peter 3:16), here is how we called to respond as Christians:
“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience…” (1 Peter 3:14-16a)
Our response during cultural shift is clear from this passage:
What lies ahead might be uncharted waters for American Christians, but it’s familiar territory for Christianity. If your rights are threatened, if your business is closed, if your reputation is maligned online, don’t panic, don’t get angry, don’t be afraid--it's normal.
Leap for joy, honor Christ, love others, stand firm.
Aaron Berry earned both his undergraduate and MA in Bible at Bob Jones University and most recently completed his MDiv at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI, where He and his wife Hanna, currently live with their two children, Brooklyn and Joshua. He also serves as the Director of Recruitment at DBTS and is a pastoral assistant at Inter-City Baptist Church.
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