On the way into work, and on the way home, I’ll sometimes listen to “Christian Radio” to hear what it is that people are being taught by preachers or talk show hosts. Yesterday morning I listened to a talk show where a lady called in to express her concern with our nation’s political problems and how they are impacting her religious rights. She had recently watched the Rick Perry ad about the “war on religion,” which led her to make the following comment (I paraphrase):
“I’m worried about the way our rights in America are being eroded and taken away. With our rights being taken away it’s like we Christians are being persecuted, and that means we won’t be able to share the good news. I’m afraid we will become a secular nation and we won’t be able to witness to the lost because our religious rights are being taken away.”
As expected, the radio host vehemently agreed, and asked that we “pray for our nation to return to its roots of being a Christian nation.”
I’ll admit, it still perplexes me that the notion of the U.S. being or becoming a “Christian nation” is still part of the evangelical discussion. Yet, it was the lady’s statement that really got my attention. Since when is it a requirement to only share the good news when there is no persecution, or struggle? It’s like a slap in the face to the early Church, as well as the current underground disciples in oppressed countries. I’m not wishing persecution on those of us in the Western world, but we need to keep it in perspective of what it means to follow Jesus and make disciples. Struggle is part of the process of following Jesus. My friend, Chris Chappotin, says it seems that today’s Christians would rather have a comfortable and fluffy church life. I agree with that thought, yet to our failure scripture doesn’t promise a comfortable and fluffy life in Christ, or a cheap gospel to share. Nor are we promised religious rights, but we are called to righteousness. We are called to identify with the Christ crucified. The Apostle Paul says it best in Galatians 2:20 (ESV), “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
After reading the verse in Galatians and considering the lady’s comment, I wonder if sometimes we would rather rewrite scripture for our own benefit. For instance, we could change Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 to say we should “go and make disciples of all cultures where you have religious freedom and aren’t persecuted. Teaching them a gospel that is safe, comfortable and fluffy.” The sad reality here is that she is only regurgitating something learned elsewhere and knows no different from what scripture teaches.
If we put this all in relation to the time of Jesus it was those marginalized by the religious who were persecuted. The early Church faced persecution because of their obedience to be in movement with the Spirit of the resurrected Christ as they penetrated their culture through an incarnational life, which challenged the religious status quo. Like the first disciples, we should take to heart the words of Jesus where he says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
While our “religious rights” may be eroded and even taken away, we who follow Christ still belong to the King and his kingdom. The Truth of the gospel still transcends all philosophies and cultures. God still reveals Himself in all of Creation and in the world’s cultures. Therefore, we must seek Him out and join him on mission…with or without religious rights.
What say you?