… Massive persecution came to the evangelical church in America?
I just wonder. And I think Matthew Henry nails it right on the head how it would go in his commentary on Matthew 24.
“They were with us, but went out from us, because never truly of us, 1 John ii. 19. We are told of it before. Suffering times are shaking times; and those fall in the storm, that stood in fair weather, like the stony ground hearers; Many will follow Christ in the sunshine, who will shift for themselves, and leave him to do so to, in the cloudy dark day. They like their religion while they can have it cheap, and sleep with it in a whole skin; but, if their profession cost them any thing, they quit it presently.”
“When persecution is in fashion, envy, enmity, and malice, are strangely diffused into the minds of men by contagion: and charity, tenderness, and moderation, are looked upon as singularities, which make a man like a speckled bird. Then they shall betray one another, that is, “Those that have treacherously deserted their religion [namely faith in Christ, that was really no faith at all], shall hate and betray those who adhere to it, for whom they have pretended friendship.” Apostates have commonly been the most bitter and violent persecutors. Note, Persecuting times are discovering times. Wolves in sheep’s clothing will then throw off their disguise, and appear wolves: they shall betray one another, and hate one another.”
Many walk with Christ as long as He grants them the fleshly desires of their hearts, and when trial comes, they scatter to the four winds and even begin to persecute those they were once apart of. Church history is packed with examples. I hope that people would not quit their profession of faith, obviously, if persecution arose. But I must, I have to ask myself in this Christian culture we live in, how many would still confess Jesus, or forsake Him for good, in the face of massive persecution of the church, should it ever come to America? Think of the total context of the world, outside of America, where Christians are currently being persecuted. America is in the minority of total Christians. Christians are being tortured RIGHT NOW in the Middle East, in Asia, in Africa. Increasingly, true believers are getting snuffed out in Europe in the form of progressive legislation and prevalent relativism. Christianity is now, what, 2% in England? And what trends are started in Europe are sure to follow here.
We have it great here, every Sunday is “fun church” and we are not in need or want of anything really, physically speaking. Preaching is cheap, watered-down, and one inch deep in most churches. Enough to get you a little self-affirmation, and warm-fuzzy that you’re on the right path, even if you may not be. But would you hear the same sermons preached in the midst of awful persecuting warfare in America? Or in fear of authorities coming in and arresting you for gathering to worship? Sunday is not just “moral day,” and then you go and live your life without any regard to the glory and praise of Christ! We put on a happy face at church, but as a people, inside we are rotting from sin that reigns and goes totally unchecked. We are a culture of white-washed tombs in my estimation. I witness students who have everything, and it is a curse. Many who have everything, that once professed Christ, have now gone out in the world, succumbed to the pleasures of sin, and abandoned Christ. May He be merciful to bring them back to Him, for they are unsaved! Their rejection has exposed the content of their trust in Christ. It is null.
Unbelievers I speak with in our culture think Christians are some of the most arrogant, prideful, unloving, inhospitable people in the country. This characterization is wrong for many, obviously, but the stereo-type, unfortunately is true for many others. Some atheists are more loving than professed Christians! What is wrong with that? If you see the love of Christ in the cross, how can you act the way you do to unbelievers? What does this say to the world? We are clean on the outside, using botox to make ourselves look younger, driving our fancy cars, in our extravagant houses, taking our lavish vacations to wherever. What would Paul say to us as a church, “the Church at America,” where we are a witness and representatives of Christ to an increasingly paganizing culture, if he saw the extravagant life-styles of professed believers here? I think he would chastise and rebuke us just as he did the Corinthians for succumbing to the pleasures of their culture. It seems that we have made so many worldly idols Christian virtues.
Even in times of financial struggle, or trials of various types (what we consider trials of “monumental” proportion), we are setup really, really well here. Pure, almost perfect water. An absolute abundance of food. Luxury transportation, public transportation. AC, heat, beds, showers, a just and equitable government, the best health care in the world. Quick responding police, fire, and medical services. Gated communities. Low unemployment rates. Good paying jobs. And granted, all of these things are inherently good in themselves and blessings, sure.
But even blessings themselves can be curses in the eternal sense; when the sinful human soul has too much available to setup as an idol, it becomes the very wool that is pulled over our eyes to blind us from the gospel truth, the shockingly sovereign glory of God in the cross, the very truth needed to sustain the soul when blood-thirsty mad-men drive through neighborhoods with machine guns, killing children in front of parents, chopping off arms, orphaning children, creating famine, torturing to death, destabilizing entire regions, etc. We are the most pain-sensitive culture in all of history (I’m absolutely not discounting myself, one of the biggest weenies concerning pain, I preach to myself just as much as anyone on this).
And I wonder … in cultures past, those who professed faith in Christ even in difficult countries where it became increasingly volatile, forsook Christ when the pressure rose: how many more now would forsake Him in the most pain-sensitive culture in history, way better than the best of those other cultures that were fairly difficult? How many professing Christians would be willing in the church to part with their luxury homes? Their Lexus’? Their excellent private education for their children? Their gated communities? Their country clubs? I’m just not so sure. I mean again, I obviously desire that all who profess faith in Christ would indeed continue and not apostatize, but realistically, I’m not sure that most would continue and not reject Christ for good. I fear for many in the American Christian culture for their eternal state, though obviously I cannot know. And even putting such a thought out there as this exposes me to getting chastised by those in the church, hitting nerves with people who fit this very profile. This is how pain-sensitive we are.
What is the solution to such a light, watered-down version of Christianity we are saturated with that could not possibly sustain such a blow of persecution I’m describing? A solid, fundamental, Biblical return to the whole realm of Gospel change in the life of believers, from beginning to end. But this must start with leaders of the church, not the lay people merely. If you preach and teach things that are light and fluffy, stroking egos and making your congregation feel good all the time, without pounding away at difficult realities as well, what do you expect to reap? A Christianity about as thick as a sheet of paper, that will get blown away when trials of monumental proportion come. And it will come. No one thought Rome would fall, and it did.
The Gospel affects every facet, every corner of life. Could it be possible the church could not live so extravagantly for the sake of witnessing to the world with our actions as well as our words and love, that we do not stake our ultimate hope in material goods and services, but in the future glory of Christ to be revealed on the Last Day? In America, it seems we have an assumption, that this is “God’s country,” that He owes us the right to all the extravagance we have. And if anything gets in our way, we curse Him. Pure arrogance. This is of the world, and not of Christ. May we return to the God of grace and may He prepare us for such persecutions should they come, that we may ultimately love Christ more, even now. And even if we are not persecuted on the scale I speak of, may He prepare us for the seasons of personal suffering we are sure to undergo, as Christ has promised, that we may even rejoice in those sufferings to the glory of Christ, because they are producing in us a glory that far outweighs anything the world can offer! Eternal life and joy in our Beloved Savior!