Christians, we are Victors, Not Victims
As I write this, #DayOfSilence is trending on social media. Created by the LGBT advancement organization GLSEN, it’s a day for young people to take a vow of silence at school in protest of “anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment.” Ironically, Christian young people across the nation face name-calling, bullying, and harassment, every day, without press and media coverage bringing attention to their plight. Sometimes it seems that with every call for tolerance secular culture sends out, the individual Christian living out his faith is finding less tolerance, and dimmer prospects for freedom in the future. However, if you expect me to spend the rest of this post bellyaching, then I must disappoint you. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but Scripture warns that anyone living God’s way should expect resistance. (2 Tim. 3:12) In fact almost every other generation and nationality of believers could tell us to join the club. Nothing we face approaches the daily reality for Christians in North Korea and the Muslim world. Regardless, it seems that the tendency is for American Christians (who previously enjoyed such an extended reprieve from serious persecution) to either lash out, or to adopt a victim mentality.
Matthew 5:11 tells us that we are blessed to take our place as persecuted believers. Not because we get any enjoyment out of suffering, but because God uses the difficult circumstances of persecution for His own Glory. All of that goes out the window, however, if in frustration we lower ourselves to the same tactics that the secular world uses against us. That is the other part of Matthew 5:11. The blessing comes only if we suffer for Christ’s sake and the evil spoken against us is false. As odd as it may sound, on one issue I am on the same page as the activists that seek to end bullying. I have heard far too many Christians use language that could only be intended to offend and tear down. It is not our job as believers to voice our own personal disgust or disapproval to unbelievers. Sinners sin. That’s what they do. It shouldn’t surprise us. It shouldn’t surprise us that sinners retreat from God’s laws. We did too. Our sins were and are every bit as real as theirs, and but for the grace of God we would be in the same condition. Colossians 4:5-6 tells us to be wise in our encounters with unbelievers, and to make the best use of our opportunities, with speech that is “seasoned with salt.” That is language that is “savory,” or well thought out, and carefully chosen. It doesn’t mean sugar coating the truth, or denying the consequences of sin. It does mean that everything we say and do serves the purposes of God’s kingdom, and that we aren’t creating occasion to be misunderstood through clumsy, aggressive, or spiteful language. Sometimes it means overlooking a personal slight or forfeiting an opportunity to assert our individual rights, when doing so would not be in the best interests of God’s kingdom. Furthermore, we can and should engage in the political process as individuals and support leaders that will protect and defend us, but only while remembering that our citizenship here is merely temporary, and while keeping the big picture of God’s glory in mind.
The current trends seem to indicate that persecution is probably going to increase in America. Perhaps it won’t be as intense as persecution found in other parts of the world, but in my opinion, we are going to increasingly discover that living according to the principles of God’s Word puts us at odds with political power. That knowledge can inspire a fatalistic attitude, or perhaps because we live in a culture where nothing is quite as personally validating as the ability to claim the victim label, it means asserting the coveted title of disenfranchised minority. The truth is that genuine Christians have been victimized through all of history. From the beginning we’ve been tortured, hung, burned, beheaded, fed to wild animals, and dismembered for sport. Even now, our brothers and sisters are enduring similar things, while much of the world turns a blind eye. But we are not victims. We are more than conquerors. Not in the sense that eventually we will turn things around for a big political win. That’s not how we measure success. We will continue to bear the name of Christ in the tradition of those who have gone before, the faithful martyrs who burned in Nero’s gardens, who defied kings to translate the Bible to the common language, who were slaughtered for hiding Jews from the Nazis, who died spreading the Gospel behind the Iron Curtain, and who today face unspeakable atrocities under totalitarian regimes. The success of the church is not counted in its ability to win elections, reverse bad laws, or defeat cultural enemies. Success is maintaining the integrity of our conduct and beliefs regardless of tremendously difficult circumstances. Success is looking into the eyes of those who hate you so much because of the Name you bear, that they will imprison, impoverish, and even execute you, and saying “I love you, God loves you, and if this is what it takes for you to see the power of His love, then I hope to count you my brother or sister in this life or the next.” No, we are not victims. We will bear that witness in defiance of evil and for the Glory of our Risen Lord to the fires of our own martyrdom if necessary and to the very end of the age. We can, because we walk in the company of the One who has promised to be with us the entire way.
See? It’s a tough pill, and a tall order. Even as I write, I see how easy it is to say and how hard it is to live, and I am humbled by my own imperfection and inadequacy. Join with me, please. Let us pray for, and pursue, the purity of heart and action and the singular focus upon Christ that will make this idea a reality in our lives.