June 30, 2014

Seek Peace. Expect Trouble. Make New Friends.

Do Christians just want to be left alone? 

Yes, says Jonathan Rauch (a self-declared “homosexual atheist”) in an article for this month’s Atlantic. Rauch is primarily responding to those who decline to participate in homosexual unions and who resist providing contraceptives to others, and his assessment is that Christians are “hunkering down” and “walling themselves off from secular society.” 

He writes: “Culturally conservative Christians are taking a pronounced turn toward social secession: asserting both the right and the intent to sequester themselves from secular culture and norms, including the norm of nondiscrimination. This is not a good idea.” And, “Associating Christianity with a desire—no, a determination—to discriminate puts the faithful in open conflict with the value that young Americans hold most sacred. They might as well write off the next two or three or 10 generations, among whom nondiscrimination is the 11th commandment.” 

What Rauch doesn’t seem to acknowledge—or maybe understand—is that Christians and their convictions are never oriented around secular society, whether that society is moral or licentious. We are not primarily “for” or “against” legislation or trends. Our lives are not fundamentally referenced to current cultural norms or this year’s Supreme Court docket or what the neighbors are doing on Friday night. 

 No, Christians and their convictions are always oriented toward a Person. And this Person is lovely to some, but offensive to others. 

Last week, I defined persecution as antagonism or suffering because of allegiance to Christ. And I think it is essential that we remember that people’s problem with Christians is fundamentally a problem with their Lord. 

Objectors like Rauch seem to think Christians are picking the wrong battles, when, in reality, the battles have already been picked for us. “[The world] hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil,” said Jesus. And also, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 7:7b; 15:18) 

Christ and his claims are repugnant to the world, so we who are brothers with Him are repugnant, too. And when Christians are disliked, misrepresented, maligned, and harmed it is primarily because of their relationship to Him. 

When church members rebel against pastors who plainly preach the whole counsel of God, when church visitors take offense at a church’s public position on homosexuality or the value of human life, when neighbors and co-workers and employers and governments censure Christians for their faithful stand on one issue or another, it is fundamentally a rebellion against Christ and His claims. 

Interestingly, toward the end of his article, Rauch approvingly invokes the word “missionary.” He writes, “There is, of course, a very different Christian tradition: a missionary tradition of engagement and education, of resolutely and even cheerfully going out into an often uncomprehending world, rather than staying home with the shutters closed.” 

And, in a sense, he’s right (though I disagree somewhat with his specific suggested methods.) Our Christ, the One who is the “stone of stumbling and the rock of offense” (Isaiah 8:14, Rom. 9:33) is also the One who makes his enemies his friends (Rom. 5:10) He is the Prince of Peace, who reconciles to God all that the Father gives him. He is the good news, the hope for dying sinners. And no one knows it better than we who were ourselves once his enemies. 

So, no, Christians don’t want to be left alone. 

We who are oriented toward our Savior want others to be oriented toward Him, too. We want men and women and children who are God’s enemies to become His friends. We know that the claims of Christ are offensive, and we are not afraid of those claims. We are not embarrassed by them. And we do not choose them out of personal preference. Instead, we know that offense is often the way to understanding sin, and understanding sin is the way to the Savior. 

When Christ makes his enemies his friends, they become our friends, too. We seek peace. We are not afraid of trouble. And we pray that God will give us new friends.

This is the second in a series on persecution.  The first post was "3 Reasons to Think about Persecution"

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