Standing firm as a follower of Jesus
In our ever-changing society here are some thoughts I recently came across on how we should live as followers of Jesus.
1) Recognise what has changed
We’re increasingly a despised minority. Mainstream culture has officially left us and our (so-called) ‘bigoted’ views behind. And so, we need to learn how to live as a despised minority. Among other things, we’ll need to get used to being seen as weird, unreasonable, even dangerous (especially when it comes to our views on sexuality). It will mean losing many of privileges, and at times even our human rights or our tax exempt status. University Christian groups, Churches meeting in public school halls, and perhaps even funding for Christian school & charities will come under increasing pressure.
And when these things happen to us, will we live as a grace-filled minority, like the original readers of 1 Peter (we will be preaching on this book in 2018)? Will we be gracious to those who attack us? Instead of retaliating, will we follow in the footsteps of Christ, who ‘did not revile in return [and] did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly’ (1 Peter 2:23)?
Are we going to live open and honest Christian lives, even though we come under pressure: knowing that God often uses our controversial lives to bring others to Himself? (cf. 1 Peter 2:12) Or will we grow discouraged? Will we give in and go with the flow?
2) Recognise opportunities
The good news is that our minority status doesn’t just bring new pressures: it also brings new opportunities. For one, we stand out a lot more when we faithfully live the gospel. People take notice – in a way they might not have noticed when mainstream culture had similar views and ethics (cf. 1 Peter 2:12). It also forces us to trust in God in ways we might not have otherwise. After all, if identifying yourself as a Christian risks bringing suspicion upon you at work, then you’ll need to depend on God a lot more. This will be wonderful for our godliness – even if our social standing suffers. And it will help us better identify with – and support – God’s marginalised churches overseas who often have it much worse than us.
3) Show gospel driven love
Be ready to show genuine love and offer gospel hope. As mainstream culture adopts a radically different view of gender and sexuality (based on a different understanding of personhood), there’ll be much fallout. People will get hurt. They’ll struggle in ways they might not have otherwise. And so, churches need to be ready to welcome these refugees from the sexual revolution. We must be prepared to share our lives and the gospel with them – pointing them to the hope and satisfaction found only in Christ Jesus.
Whilst our primary calling as Christians is to share the gospel and make disciples (e.g. Matt 28:19), it’s not our only calling. We’re also commanded to love our neighbours, and do good to them – be they Christians or non-Christians (Gal 6:10). This involves practical acts of service (e.g. Jas 1:27, 2:14-17).
Recent political events can leave us feeling discouraged. We might wonder what’s happening to our world. We might fear for the future – especially for our kids and grandkids. Yes, we might be concerned. But we shouldn’t be surprised. As author Paul Tripp puts it: The heaven that we all long for is yet to come. We live in the uncomfortable moment between the glories of our justification and the glory of our final union with Christ for eternity.
He continues: And where do we live in-between? We live in a world that has been, and continues to be, devastated by sin.’ And so, it’s foolish to depend on this world for our hopes, dreams, joys. It’s going to disappoint – sometimes badly. We shouldn’t live for the Australian Dream, but for the Kingdom that cannot be shaken. The sooner we realise this, the better off we’ll be.
4) Respond in a God honouring way.
American author Rosaria Butterfield points out that that since SSM was legalised in America, the vitriol in public discourse has increased – not just from advocates of SSM, but also from many Christians. When attacked with vitriol, these Christians responded in kind. But is attacking our attackers a God-honouring response?
Not at all. There is a better way – a ‘most excellent way’ – and it involves seeking first to understand, and only then to be understood. It means being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
Sure, not all our opponents will want to engage and discuss. But some will. And by sitting across from those who think differently – breaking bread with them, hearing their point of view – we will often gain opportunities to share our worldview. Sharing our hope. Sharing our lives. And sharing the gospel (1 Peter 3:15).
We don’t know what the future holds. But we know that increasing cultural and even legal opposition is likely. And yet, we mustn’t get discouraged. Christ Jesus is still Lord. And we’re still His rescued people.