Are we willing to be hated for Christ’s sake?

23 Feb

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12, ESV)

““If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18–21, ESV)

I grew up in the small community of Ider, Alabama where the overwhelming majority of people believed the Bible to be God’s Word and viewed it as a good and positive thing to be a committed Christian. As a teenager I began to really read the Bible regularly and, to be very honest, I would read passages like these and never give them a thought because I lived in somewhat of a bubble in the Bible belt of America. It was really only when I studied in seminary that I learned about the persecuted church and the sacrifices that so many have given for sake of Christ.  Still, for the last twenty years, I have served as a pastor in the United States and the reality has been that true persecution of Christians has been something that happened in other parts of the world.  Even after the cultural revolution of the 1960’s, being a Christian in the United States has largely been viewed as a good thing for my entire life.

However, we now see that changing before our very eyes.  Our culture is rapidly becoming hostile to the Biblical, historic Christian faith.  At present, this hostility seems to revolve around two issues: the exclusivity of the gospel (the belief that personal faith in Christ is the only way of salvation) and the Biblical standards of sexuality, marriage, and family.  It’s still “OK” to be a Christian in America as long as you are a Christian who believes that all religions are equally true and that homosexuality is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle that should be celebrated and even given the rights of marriage. However, if you are a Christian in America today who believes that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven and that sex is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated in the context of marriage between one man and one woman for life, then there is a rapidly growing hostility toward you. Increasingly, our culture will label you as hateful, bigoted, ignorant, unworthy of leadership, etc.  In other words, the Biblical, historic Christian faith is no longer welcome to growing segments of our culture in America.

Where will all of this end?  I do not know.  I personally pray every single day for America to return to the Lord.  I pray every day for revival to come to America. A great revival could turn this tide.  I am praying that all of this ends in revival for our nation.

However, if present trends continue, Bible believing Christians in America might soon have to face some very tough questions.  Will we remain faithful when our faith truly costs us something?  Will we share the gospel and make disciples in a culture that is hostile to our message and beliefs? Will we stand up for the right to teach our children Biblical truth even if that is labeled harmful to their well being by the government? What if there is violence against churches with Biblical convictions?  What if our church is sued for not allowing gay weddings in our facilities? What will we do when the TV and radio broadcasts of faithful pastors are labeled as “hate speech” because of their convictions and forced off the air if they refuse to edit them?   What will we do if being a member of a conservative, Bible preaching church might mean we won’t get promoted or even hired in the first place?  What would we do if being a committed Christian means you will not be elected to any political office of any consequence? Would we still tithe if we no longer receive a tax deduction for giving to our church?

If revival doesn’t come to America soon, we will very likely be answering these questions and many more.

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