Monday 10 July 2017
We are seeing a lot of changes in our world today. When was the last time you wrote a letter? When was the last time you took a call on your home phone, or made one? Most likely the last time you used your home phone was to help find your mobile phone. Have you noticed how few young people there are on Facebook these days? That’s because they are on Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, Tinder or some other service that I haven’t heard of yet, because I’m over 30, and not a youth pastor anymore. Things are changing more and more, some things for the better, some for the worse.
One thing that has changed for the better is how connected we are to the rest of the world. We can know about riots at the G20 summit in Germany as soon as they have happened, or the target of the US President's latest tweet. Just as quickly as we can know what the score of NRL games were on the weekend, without even turning on the TV. We are uber-connected. But this connectedness has enabled us to be saturated by so many different messages in this world today. So many different causes, so many different noble fights and not so noble fights. It’s hard to know when to plug in and when to shut it all out. We can see how people are thinking, more and more, both at home and abroad, and there is one thing I am seeing more and more that I think is going to be devastating for the Church. I call it The Great Betrayal.
Before I explain it, let me say that I won’t be surprised if persecution eventually comes in state form, or some other form, to churches in the West, and even Australia. We have had it really good for a really long time, and Jesus told us to expect opposition. Mostly we have not been opposed in the West, but rather competed with, and not just by other religions, but by malls, TV, movies, and all kinds of fun and distracting things. This has made us a bit lukewarm, and complacent. It’s easy going most of the time for a Christian in Oz, and besides the occasional mocking or individual persecution at school, or in the work place, we have had it very good here. But I am not the first person to see that this is changing and this change could accelerate quickly to full blown persecution eventually, maybe even soon. I hope it doesn’t happen, but again, we were promised opposition by Jesus.
But what I think a lot of believers haven’t seen coming, and maybe don’t expect as much is The Great Betrayal that is about to come, if persecution starts to heat up. You see I think that one of the main places from which Christians will be targeted and exposed, is by some of their very own brothers and sisters in the faith. I have already seen signs of this. Let me give some examples.
How many of you saw all the kerfuffle in the US over wedding cakes for same sex weddings? Many opinions were given from different perspectives. Some said, ‘let them eat cake!’ Other said, ‘No.’ But what concerned me was the number of ‘Christians’ who were delighted to see their brothers and sisters in the faith lose their business for taking a stand on marriage. These progressive Christians took an even more hard line stance, if you don’t play by the world's rules, you should be punished. They labelled their fellow believers as bigots for defending the historical Christian view of marriage and some even delighted in seeing the trouble this brought these believers. This should not be.
Another example I saw was during the federal election last year. There were many Christians who believed that Manus Island, and Nauru, should be determining factors for Christians who voted. Now please don’t misunderstand me, I think our government must balance security and justice for the sojourner (refugee). This is a complicated issue. But I saw multiple, mostly young Christians say that they were going to happily vote for a particular political party, who had hard line stances that would restrict the freedoms of Christians, but shut down these facilities. Even though they knew this might lead to persecution for their brothers and sisters, they were ok with this. They were still willing to put this issue ahead of the potential safety of people they say they share faith in Christ with.
Another example, which really disappointed me, was a discussion I saw on personal boundaries for male ministry leaders. I saw many, who would claim, and likely were genuine believers, condemn leaders who put into place boundaries which separated them from one on one private meetings with people of the opposite sex. Never mind that these leaders have well established reasons for such boundaries, still the men especially, were accused of being sexist, and disempowering of women, because in a male dominated profession like the pastorate these boundaries limit access for women. My issue wasn’t so much that some people disagreed with these boundaries; because personal boundaries are just that, personal. My issue was that instead of a discussion over what best enabled someone to remain holy in their conduct, men who practiced such boundaries were accused of simply sexualizing women and insulting men. It became about gender politics. It was mentioned that after all the world doesn’t follow such rules in business, and social interactions, and they make it work…can’t the church do the same (I would argue the world has caused itself a lot of trouble with a lack of boundaries).
All of these examples have a common thread, a disturbing thread. There are many believers out there who would more quickly ally with the causes of the world than fellow believers. Of course many think they are doing God’s work, and maybe I am the one who is wrong here on these issues, though I am willing to defend my positions. But what I am not wrong about is that there are massive divides in the church over social issues, and for many us, we see more and more of the church becoming like the world in how it thinks, and the issues it tackles. Since when did the Apostle’s mission line up with third wave feminism, or the modern identity politics movement? I really hope I am wrong, but as persecution heats up I think we are going to see more and more people who consider themselves parts of the church betray their brothers and sisters for the causes of the world. Or at least, be willing to sacrifice the livelihood and safety of their brothers and sisters in the faith for what they see as a cause of justice.
I call this The Great Betrayal, because I think many Christians don’t see it coming, but the signs are there and its effects will be great. Already many believers compromise on long held traditional beliefs like eternal hell, one man one woman marriage, and even the substitutionary atonement, among others, to stay in good with the world. I think many of these ‘believers’ are more than willing to sell out their more traditional brethren who hold these beliefs and others as non-negotiable. After all our views are considered more than controversial in today’s culture, in one instance an American politician just recently called traditional Christian views on hell dangerous.
Again I hope I am wrong, but didn’t Jesus say: “34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
Perhaps Jesus meant this to apply to the household of faith, as well as the family? I hope I am wrong about this, but the signs don’t look good.