Yesterday’s election results were surprising and disappointing to a majority of those who were close observers of the campaigns. Clearly there are multitudes within the country who don’t pay attention but still vote. I’m not complaining about that; I’m simply observing the growing trend. And once things begin to slide downhill, rarely are they stopped, and even more rarely are they returned to a higher position.
For the liberal political agenda, that’s good news. For the economic and security futures of the country, it’s likely to be bad news. For Christians, it’s going to be tough.
I’m not predicting that we will lose our right to assemble or worship as we wish. Those are fabulous blessings protected by the Constitution. But we’ve long made the mistake of thinking of our Christianity as primarily what we do when we gather together for worship. Real, living Christianity–serving God by following Jesus–is a way of life. And our way of life will grow more difficult as our society grows in its unbelief.
Our challenge is going to be similar to that of the first few generations of Christians who found themselves in the vast minority within an empire full of violence, corruption, and rancid immorality. There is good reason to lament and mourn the death of a culture that once made it comfortable to be a Christian. But we are not called to be a people of anger, resentment, worry, or surrender. Scripture calls us to be a people of faith, hope, love, and endurance.
Can God’s people survive in a land of oppression? Ask Daniel who grew up in Babylon, lived through a night in a den of lions, and was still “greatly loved” by God (Daniel 9:23). Or ask Joseph whose whole life was turned upside down when he was sold by his brothers into slavery, carried into a pagan land, spend years in prison, but finally was raised to a place of honor by God. Joseph looked back on all his misfortunes and calamities–as we might define them–as part of God’s good plan to save many people (Genesis 50:20). Or ask Naomi who became so heartbroken and despondent that she wanted to be called “Bitter” but later learned that she was not forgotten or forsaken by God (see Ruth 4:14-15). Or ask Paul.
Paul was willing to give up all the honor and trappings of life lived by the rules of the world in order to be a faithful servant of God. Even though Paul had experienced countless hardships–far more than almost any of us have every known–he could still say, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).
What we need today is a clearer perspective of who we are, what the future likely holds, and how we prepare to meet it in a way that glorifies God. Because if we do that–if we glorify God–he will preserve, sustain, and exalt us in his time. He has made that promise to us. So the challenge is to continue to find ways to engage a rapidly decaying culture without being overcome by it.
Our youngest generations are the most at risk. They will not grow up in a country like we, or our parents and grandparents have known. In some ways that’s a good thing; in other ways, it’s not. But it will be different, and we who are faithful to God must prepare ourselves and our children to be light in a world of darkness. To be salt in a culture on the brink of decay. To be grace and truth in a nation that has been nearly overcome by hatred and lies.
Our task is enormous. But our God is soooo big…