Our Changing Culture: Reacting to the reality of an America without Christian values.
I heard a Sunday school teacher say recently that Christians in America had become soft. He was lamenting the fact that so many believers feel entitled to a certain amount of respect from an increasingly secular society. That we have become accustomed to such treatment cannot be disputed. We protest when our positions are challenged, complain when unbelievers criticize the preferential treatment we receive, and are offended when non-believers insist that the laws ought to reflect their values rather than ours.
We have these issues because we live in America, a country whose founding fathers boldly embraced biblical principles, a country whose governing documents acknowledge the sovereignty of God and encourage respect for His authority, a country that has historically revered the values that we as believers hold dear. For the last 200 years American believers have enjoyed a unique position of secular prosperity. For that we should be grateful.
What happens to our attitude, however, when we realize that we are losing our privileged status? Do we have a right to be offended that unbelievers are acting like unbelievers? Does our redemption entitle us to expect a life without opposition, tribulation or persecution?
We must remember that neither the book we embrace nor the Savior we serve has given us such permission. In fact, scripture teaches just the opposite.
- “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:19-20)
- “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” (John 16:33)
- “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12)
Believers in countries where repression of Christianity is far more severe have an interesting viewpoint of Christianity in America. Stephanie Anderson, a staff member at Eternal Perspective Ministries relayed the following account of pastors who are involved with the underground church in North Korea:
Our visitors shared that when North Korean believers are asked how we in the West can pray for them, they often respond by explaining they pray for us! When asked why, they say, “You place a lot of faith in your money and freedom. We have neither money nor freedom. We have God, and that is enough.”
Pastor Foley writes, “We Western Christians are tempted or deceived into confusing God with Mammon, and freedom of religion with freedom in Christ. North Korean Christians see daily the stark difference between the One True God and every counterfeit. They talk of a freedom that can’t be taken away, even inside a concentration camp.”
Perhaps they got their encouragement from the Apostle Paul. In his second letter to the church at Corinth he addresses the issue of a proper response to persecution. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 provides four essential facts to help encourage believers in the midst of tribulation:
- Though troubled, we are not in distress
- Though perplexed, we are not in despair
- Though persecuted, we are not forsaken
- Though cast down, we are not destroyed
The discomfort of persecution (Paul calls it a “light affliction” in verse 17) for believers is temporary and should not cause us to lose heart, or hope. The first clause in each of the phrases above describes the earthly battle that believers face. The second clause affirms the divine power that believers possess. That’s why the apostle portrays believers as victorious. He doesn’t say we should not be defeated; he states that we are not defeated.
Values are changing in our country. Opposition to righteousness is growing, and the much heralded principle of tolerance is encouraged only when it benefits those who oppose biblical values, which means that the challenges believers face will increase.
The Apostle provides a clear spiritual perspective for every child of God in V. 18 when he encourages us to: “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
We must remember that persecution does not indicate defeat. Instead, it identifies us with the one who died to give us victory.
There is no reason to be discouraged about that!