Hmm, this is a ripper to get back to the ‘you asked’ series with. It’s a complex question:
Why is the western world becoming more hateful of Christians? Will it eventually lead to persecution of western Christians?
As usual, let me start as simple as possible and then unpack it as I go. I think there’s two reasons why; the first is that we have failed people’s expectations of us the second is that we carry a message that blows the world’s expectations and categories out the window. As for will it eventually lead to outright persecution, I am tempted to say yes, as when I read scripture, it seems to be saying that things will get worse everywhere including the western world until Jesus comes again.
So what do I mean by Christianity has failed people’s expectations? I was originally going to write something like ‘much persecution has been self-inflicted. Obviously the examples of institutional sexual abuse of children in the church weigh heavy in the mind and it is totally understandable how a person who has been or knows someone who has been a victim of abuse would grow to hate Christians. I’m not sure people hate Christians though, as much as they hate hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy, it is so much easier to hate it than admit it. Returning to the example of institutionalised abuse however, I have noticed that it is not only the church that has had a dark history but also secular organisations like scouts, educational institutions and even sporting clubs. BUT here’s the difference: these institutions are not spending half their time talking about nor claiming to worship a God of absolute righteousness and holiness. The church is held to a far higher standard due to the content of our message. Like Old Testament Israel, we have failed that standard. There’s no point moaning about it, it’s far better to do something about it, realising that as Michael O’Neil once taught me; a missional community is a moral community or it’s neither.
You simply cannot be a blessing to all nations if you’ve been a curse on the life of even one. It’s taken me years to realise this but we actually teach people the language which they will use to judge us. Matthew 7:2 (For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you) is not simply (though not less than) a statement of God’s judgement of us, but also simply an unmasking of reality. Ie; can we really expect to flatten out the Gospel of grace into purely moralistic terms en-masse for 60 years and then be that surprised when we are judged by that same society on purely moralistic terms?
So that’s the bit that maybe you can say is our fault. However, it is interesting to note that persecution is one of the promises of God to his disciples this side of eternity!
Luke 6: 22-23 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.
1 Peter 4:14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
These scriptures reveal that even if the Church was perfect, we’d still be in for persecution because of the Savior we preach. Jesus was not some ‘great moral teacher’. The people who were around during his time on earth either loved him or hated him but no one left his presence indifferent. This is because, (to put it in Jesus’ own words) The world…hates me because I testify that its works are evil. (Jn 7:7). Jesus did not pull any punches. He confronted (and still confronts) the self-assured, prideful attitudes of humanity. He turned up and told people that problem is not ‘someone else’, ‘some system’, ‘some ideology’ or ‘some situation’ the problem is our heart. He testifies that without him, we are already the walking dead, and dead people cannot save themselves.
The world hates this because it is religious at it’s core. That is, we as people want to know that as long as we ‘follow the rules’ we’re ok. The Gospel message takes a scalpel to this idea and says “you can obey all the rules you like and you’ll get no-where, instead we are made righteous by faith.” I have learned that when someone all of a sudden ‘explodes’ at you, it’s because you have challenged their deepest security. The other name for our deepest security is of course our idol. As long as their are idols being challenged, Christians will be hated in some sphere. If we’re not, it’s because we’re not communication the full gospel.
The second phase of the question was: will it lead to persecution of western Christians? I think we have answered a “yes” to that, but to give some context to our expectations, let me very quickly answer four ‘burning’ issues that arise out of it.
- Why it’s not that bad. I think we need to be careful not to label ourselves as a persecuted people too quickly. What we are going through now is nothing compared to what other Christian, and I might add, minority groups are going through in other parts of the world.
- Why it is that bad. Persecution of a people group begins with the persistent and deliberate eradication of their ideas from the ‘market place’ of ideas. We are beginning to see that now. If you would like evidence of this occurring in western cultures, we don;t have the time to run through it now but email me at email@example.com and I can get you some info.
- Why it will get worse. Jesus promises that it will! But that works itself out in real time because the more divergent views are eradicated from society by a controlling elite, the more self-assured they feel in doing so, because there is obviously less and less challenge to them.
- Why it will get better.If you read Acts in particular you’ll notice that people suffering persecution are often granted a special gift of the Holy Spirit to bear it. This seems to particular express itself in JOY. It seems that persecution drives you deeper and deeper into God. As Jesus said, when you no longer seek to save you’re own life, there is a freedom which very few experience. Now is nothing in comparison to eternity.
So there we go, isn’t it good to know that what ever happens, Christmas reminds us that Jesus came to earth once through a miracle,, he can and will do it again. HE is in control and the more we trust that fact, the more obvious it becomes to us.