God’s people have always been persecuted for their belief in and following of him. It might seem like there is a new and rising antagonism towards Christians but as is the catchphrase of Ecclesiastes “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Faithful Christian believers have always stuck out like a sore thumb in society, even when going to church was something society commended and required, it did not correspond to people actually wanting to live faithfully in accordance with God’s law.
I’ve used this Spurgeon quote before but it’s so excellent that I need to use it here as well - “The present age is so flippant that if a man loves the Saviour he is styled a fanatic, and if he hates the powers of evil he is named a bigot.” He lived in the 1800s – a time most would agree was very “Christian” but he faced the same trouble we do today!
Look to the future or the past?
A resounding cry in society today is that we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, that what matters is how we will look to those in the future. Will they look back and say, “How savage! I can’t believe they did that!”
I think that instead of worrying about what people in the present think or what people in the future will think we should be more concerned about what people in the past would think.
As Paul writes in Hebrews Chapter 1 verses 1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
We are so blessed to have thousands of years of faithful Godly witnesses to look back upon, right back to people such as Abraham, all the prophets, those such as Rahab and Ruth and then everyone since then.
More great men and women of faith such as Perpetua – the first recorded female martyr (killed for professing faith in Christ), Athanasius (exiled multiple times for claiming Jesus was fully God and fully human), John Calvin (persecuted for preaching salvation through grace alone), John Wesley (tossed out of church after church for preaching that we are sinners in need of a saviour), Corrie Ten Boom (sent to a Nazi concentration camp for helping the Jews because of her Christian convictions) and many many more!
All of those people and many many more valued God’s word and God’s way more than what society thought and the only person they worried about pleasing for the future was God himself.
The way of love and truth
In today’s society to love someone is to let them do whatever they want without saying anything but that isn’t true love. True love is coming alongside someone we don’t agree with and regardless of their actions or behaviour treating them with kindness and compassion but not accepting everything they do as right. True love points out wrong when it sees it but does so in a way that is motivated by love and concern for the person.
Jesus was well known for spending time with people that society disapproved of but he didn’t commend the wrong things they did, he offered friendship and forgiveness but he also told them to repent and change their ways.
In the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector Jesus singles out Zacchaeus for special attention and after spending time in his presence Zacchaeus is overwhelmed with Jesus’ love and his own wrong doing and repents and completely turns his life around.
Jesus – our model
Jesus loved us so much that he went to the cross and died for us but he had to do that because he knew that we were all dead in our sins and needed to be rescued. We need to be like this – full of love and compassion for those around us and as part of that love recognising that everyone needs to come to know and trust in Jesus to be saved and that following God’s pattern for life brings about the best of human flourishing.
We need to stay committed to living life God’s way not society’s way taking encouragement from the great cloud of Christian witnesses from throughout thousands of years of history instead of focusing on the tiny sliver of present time where society is trying to dictate what is right and wrong and doing away with the past.
We need to follow Jesus’s pattern of love and truth such as standing up for the unborn by defending their right to life and then supporting organisations that help out women in crisis pregnancy, or lovingly including those who struggle with same sex attraction (or any other sexual sin) in our church while teaching them God’s good plan for human sexuality, or declaring the truth that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, salvation, and eternal life in a world where truth can be anything you want it to.
Societal values come and go but God’s word stands firm forever so let’s take heart from all the faithful Christians who have sacrificed greatly to follow him and stand firm against societal pressure and persecution while we boldly proclaim the truth and love those around us looking forward to when Jesus returns and makes all things new!
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrap-booking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.