I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to Jesus and to the church.
It seems as though laws are being passed, cases are being made and judgements are being served on an almost weekly basis that are aggressively opposed to those who seek to honour God and hold to a biblical worldview. In truth, it is becoming ever harder to live, speak and follow Jesus in our current cultural context. I guess what makes society’s slide into secularism so hard to navigate is the fact that we are sliding out an era that has marked us for so long as a predominantly ‘Christian’ nation. And while most would agree that we haven’t been a ‘Christian nation’ for decades now and that the Christendom in the UK is dead, buried and decomposed, the speed at which things are changing is nonetheless dizzying!
However, where I might be alone in my thinking, or at least in a significant minority, is that I’m not persuaded that it’s an altogether bad thing for the church to be where she is at right now. As I have been studying the signs of our times through the lens of scripture, 7 thoughts/challenges have gripped me, and I’m going to share them in a series of posts over coming days.
1. Recognise our current context
As I alluded to in a recent post, we do not live in a Christian country anymore. Whereas 50 years ago belief in God, church attendance and Bible-based morality were normative, today things are very different! Society’s rules and the rules of engagement have changed. People aren’t asking the same questions that they once were. They don’t have the same frame of reference that they once had.
And that’s what makes the current age so exciting for Christians.
Rather than complaining about the godlessness that surrounds us, or looking back wistfully to the ‘good old days’, we need to be more like Paul whose approach to mission varied dramatically in the various cultures he sought to evangelise. Take a few minutes to consider his different approaches in Lystra (Acts 14 v 8-21), Berea (Acts 17 v 10-15) and Athens (Acts 17 v 16-34). Paul wasn’t lazy and he didn’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to mission. Rather, he was observant, flexible, strategic and courageous.
We need do adopt a similar approach as we consider our current cultural context.
2. Remember the words of Jesus
A friend of mine of mine recently tweeted a comment about the same sex marriage refferendum in Ireland and was quickly given the mutha of all pixelated beat-downs! One of the many comments thrown back at him was something along the lines of
“Take your f***ing faith back to the margins of society where it belongs!”
I have no idea who the author of that comment was, but as far as holding to the teachings of Jesus they were pretty much on the money! Here’s just a few of things that Jesus said to His followers in the gospels:
the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
(Matthew 7 v 14)
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
(Luke 6 v 22)
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.
(John 15 v 18-19)
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
(John 17 v 14)
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5 v 11-12)
Now I am not one of those seemingly masochistic Christians who wants nothing more than persecution and grief for for following Jesus, but neither am I blind or indifferent to the scriptures that teach clearly about the cost of following Jesus.
The gospel path is the narrow path.
The unpopular path.
The path of the few.
The way of the cross.
This guy on twitter had essentially condemned and consigned Christianity to the very place where Christianity was custom-built to thrive and flourish – the margins of society! Spend some time in the gospels. Consider the stories throughout Acts. Read Paul’s letters. Listen to the words of Jesus to the churches in Revelation. Study church history. It’s always in times of polarisation and persecution that the church is at her most zealous, most fruitful and most glorious! And while I don’t believe that we are being persecuted in the UK right now, we are certainly being pushed into the margins…and I honestly don’t think that this is a bad thing.
Nominal hypocrisy and compromise will flounder and die in the margins.
Fellowship will be sweet in the margins.
Apathy will not survive in the margins.
Prayer will increase in the margins.
Faith will rise in the margins.
Jesus will be with us in the margins!
And He told us it would be this way!
Part 2 coming soon…