A New Jersey teacher was suspended for
giving a student a Bible. A football coach was placed on leave for
praying on the field. The Atlanta fire chief was fired for
self-publishing a book defending Christian morality.
A Marine was court-martialed for refusing to remove a Bible verse on her
desk. A senator castigated a political nominee for his evangelical
theology. Christian groups like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship have
been expelled from college campuses.
It’s hard for evangelical Christians not to feel that our culture is
increasingly antagonistic toward our faith and values today.
I raise this topic because of a fascinating report released yesterday.
Sociologist George Yancey shows that those who oppose evangelical
Christianity have become wealthier in recent years and thus have more
money to bankroll their viewpoint. In other words, we can expect
intolerance to continue and even escalate in coming years.
Obviously, American Christians should not compare the opposition we face
with the persecution being suffered in countries such as North Korea,
Somalia, and Iraq. But Mary Eberstadt is right: “Something new has
snaked its way into the village square: an insidious intolerance for
religion that has no place in a country founded on religious freedom.”
How should we respond?
God wants his people to work for the common good regardless of how
society treats us. He instructed his people exiled in Babylon to “seek
the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to
the Lord on its behalf” (Jeremiah 29:7). The apostles led a movement
that met physical, social, and spiritual needs so effectively that they
won “favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47).
Conversely, one of the ways God redeems persecution is by using it to
remind us that this world is not our home: “Here we have no lasting
city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We are
“sojourners and exiles” in this fallen world (1 Peter 2:11), knowing
that this life is a journey and heaven is our destination.
In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis famously noted:
“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds
from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and
merriment, he has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have
plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.
“It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest
our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a
few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with
our friends, a bath or a football match have no such tendency. Our
Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not
encourage us to mistake them for home.”
Paul called his ministry team “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians
5:20). He courageously advanced the agenda of his King in distant lands
while preparing every day to return home.
Whose agenda will you advance today?
Publication date: October 19, 2017