One thing the Church has done really well for the past several decades is to stay out of society’s way. Nary a peep out of us when Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association that includes the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” was literally turned upside down (in 1947 by the SCOTUS in Everson v. Board of Education) to imply that it was the State that needed protection (separation) from the Church. Hardly any concern voiced over court decisions that essentially banned prayer and Bible reading in school (1962 and 1963 respectively). When the sexual revolution of the late 60’s and 70’s came into fruition it was then that we began to hear things like, “go with the flow” and “if it feels good do it!” and “keep your religion to yourself, man.”
No-fault divorce, Roe v. Wade, and then religious pluralism all took root in our culture and the Church quietly played along. And now we are reaping the harvest. Christian businesses that don’t want to be involved in homosexuality are being told “bake the cake” or “arrange the flowers...or else!” The President of these United States refuses to say the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and slyly refers to a freedom of “worship” rather than a freedom of “religion” when referring to the First Amendment.
Then there are the Planned Parenthood videos. Truly there is a lot of moral outrage and indignation being voiced by Christians (as there rightly should be) but it wasn’t until there was undercover video being posted on YouTube that we finally started waving our hands and yelling “Stop it!” What did we think had been going on all these decades? When Kermit Gosnell finally got caught killing babies born alive in his abortion clinic we all knew he wasn’t the only abortion doctor in America doing this. So we barked at him and when they threw him in jail we let everything go back to normal. I guess we thought Planned Parenthood was loaded with so much more professionalism and integrity than Gosnell?
So now here we are. High School marching bands are being forbidden from playing the music (no words; just the music) to Christian hymns during a halftime football show, military chaplains being persecuted by their superiors for giving Christian counseling, a city council refuses to allow a Chick-fil-A restaurant to open in an airport because the chain’s leader says he supports biblical marriage and the black cloud of tyranny hangs over every church in America if it refuses to permit a homosexual marriage on the property.
It sure looks bleak for the American Christian today and we have only our own lack of will and conviction to blame. But even in the midst of the unmitigated hate and vitriol that is being spewed at today’s Christian there is hope and an assurance of victory if we will only stand for what is holy and righteous. There is actually something to rejoice about and look forward to even though culture has turned decidedly demonic and we are partly to blame.
Look carefully at these words found in 1 Peter 3:13-17:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?
A rhetorical question by the Apostle, I know, but the obvious answer is “no one.” The key to not being harmed is the believer’s clear cut devotion and commitment to the “good.” Good isn’t a relative statement concerning a perceived state of affairs. Good is absolutely perfect righteousness. That’s why Jesus said, “There is only one who is good” (Matthew 19:17). Why be reticent to stand for the Good? Peter’s question is really “Now just who do you think can overrule or overpower God as you exalt and honor Him?” We spend far too much time and energy trying to avoid conflict with those who are controlled by evil. Why not expend our efforts on strategizing how we might make it crystal clear to this evil world and culture exactly what true goodness is and from whence it comes? Who is there to harm us for doing that? You can think of someone? Is that someone more powerful or loving than God? No? Then what are we waiting for?
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that in the great big picture of your life you actually need a little fire to burn some dross away from your soul and God permits some discomfort to come your way. What then? If the discomfort is the result of your faith stand… “you will be blessed.” Sort of reminds me of the three Hebrews in Daniel chapter 3 who when confronted by Nebuchadnezzar to bow or burn told him that the believed God would deliver them from his furnace and that even if for some reason He didn’t they would never capitulate to an evil and unjust command (Daniel 3:16-18). By the way, didn’t Jesus speak to this very thing in the Beatitudes? (Matthew 5:11-12)
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
Stop allowing purveyors of evil to set today’s agenda. Stop fearing the consequences for standing in faith and promoting righteousness and holiness. Do what is good and right because it is good and right and not because it is acceptable or popular. It is clear that Peter is talking about doing what is right because of our relationship with God. Since when does evil get to decide how much righteousness will be allowed for the day?
And for goodness sake we need to stop being taken aback by those who demand to know where we get off trying to shove our religion on them! We get our marching orders from the Sovereign Ruler of the universe and not the SCOTUS. Did you catch that in Peter’s statement? “[R]egard Christ the Lord as holy.” Today’s Church seems to have decided to change that statement to “regard Christ the Lord as a model of niceness and acceptance.” The call is to demonstrate allegiance and conviction with grace and courtesy. It is not to be apologetically accommodating and comprising.
Evil is not on the same high moral ground as holiness. Which means that those who embrace it ought to be put to shame. Not by condescending arguments but by the gracious strength of the Christian’s conviction. It is not only permissible to stand for righteousness and holiness; it is convicting and even winsome (perhaps in the long run).
For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
This is more of a common sense thing to say than it is some profoundly religious sentiment. The problem is that much of today’s Church seems to have abandoned common sense. I am reminded of a rather terse conversation I had many years ago when I first became a pastor. I asked the congregation to give me the names of people that they thought might need prayers for salvation. It’s not like I was going to read them aloud during worship service. I was simply going to pray for them privately in my prayer time. One woman quit the church over it so I went to see her. She said it would be judgmental for me to pray for a specific person’s salvation since I didn’t know the state of their soul. My response was that I would rather be found guilty by God of praying for someone who was already saved than guilty of not praying for the lost because I wasn’t sure if they were lost. I think it was that last statement by Peter that inspired that reply.
What those who give themselves over to evil cannot fathom is that despite the Church’s selfishness and reticence to “get involved” with culture we have a forgiving and merciful God who will accept our repentant hearts AND grant us victory over evil former apathy notwithstanding. I keep reading comments in different forms of social media that say something like “Too bad Christians, your book of myths and fairy tales is finally fading away.” To which I usually respond, “Yeah, they’ve been saying that now for thousands of years.” King David put it best: “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
All it takes for evil to be brought to its knees in submission is a little humility and courage from those who believe Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God. Onwards Christian Soldiers…!