“If the world hated me, it will hate you, too.” (John 15:18)
Our 21st century, North American culture is a veritable “freedom utopia” for Christians, at least as far as it compares to the rest of the world. (So far, anyway. It appears that voters in the US signed themselves on for some drastic changes in the last number of years; Canada has recently joined the fray with the young, boyish, idealistic and inexperienced Trudeau junior, and it’s going to change the political and “political-correctness” landscape very quickly, and for a bunch into the future. I wish them luck.)
IT WAS SO GOOD, FOR SO LONG
Christians have long been imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith in other societies, both throughout history and in our modern world. Christians in China, not too long ago in Soviet Russia, and currently and in other places like North Korea suffer persecution and abuse at the hands of atheistic tormenters who hate Christianity and want to wipe every trace of it from their cultures. And these communists see the torture and abuse of other people as a necessary evil to rid the world of the fantasies of religion.
From a Christian perspective, Europe is in shambles, falling fast to the influences and the dominance of Islam. Places like Denmark and Norway are overrun by Muslims dominating the culture. The police in Oslo, for instance, will tell you that they have lost the city to the Muslims. Churches in England lay dormant and are selling on a regular basis to Muslim groups who are turning them into mosques and Islamic outreach centres.
NORTH AMERICA MAY WELL GO THE WAY OF EUROPE
Here in North America, we seem to be on the downward slide in many ways. We have been living on the fruit of our forefathers faith and relative spiritual righteousness for some time; but the fruit is rotting on the vine. The influence of political correctness has overrun the political system. And people (the majority of them, anyway) have abandoned a biblical world view. The fringe elements (as measured by their percentages in the population) have screamed the loudest, and politicians, for whatever reason (whether through ignorance or a wish to satisfy the loudest screamers to maintain their hold on power) have catered to the 3% minority at the expense of the other 97%, with the result that we are in a mudslide toward a moral abyss.
Gay rights and other special-interest groups are finding ways to have their proclivities entrenched in law, with the end result that people are effectively being muzzled from even having a legal right to speak freely to the fact that they believe what these groups are doing is immoral. It is now labelled “hate speech” to say that you think what they are doing is wrong, even if you try to tell them with the best of intention and with concern for their soul because of a biblical world view.
THERE ARE POCKETS OF REVIVAL, POSSIBILITIES FOR OUR FUTURE
Not all is lost. God is on the move. There are places where the church is exerting influence in the culture. There are churches and Christian groups that are taking it upon themselves to go to city and state capitols, simply to be present there to pray for the leadership of the cities and states. It is not with an agenda to evangelize; it is to lift these people up and bathe them in prayer because of their responsibility to govern wisely.
South Korea is a majority-Christian population. One of the fastest growing churches, according to some statistics, is the church in Iran. Christianity seems to flourish in countries where persecution runs high; pain drives us to our knees, and so, in times of desperation, the church grows strong with the Spirit of Christ moving them to selfless love and hearts of worship and praise. But that only explains Iran. The current church in South Korea is not because of persecution, but because of prayer, in spite of their freedom, but because of their zeal.
Here in North America, there are churches that are burgeoning at the seams because they were incubated and bathed in prayer. If you stop in for a visit on a Sunday morning at Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York, you will be blown away at the passion these people have for praise and worship. They are over-the-top in love with Jesus, and the hands are raised and the faces are joyful, even at the back of the auditorium, even from the very first song. And they’re not in a hurry to leave that service early, either.
There are churches like Bethel in Redding, California that are mega-centers of revival and outreach, seeing miracles taking place, reaching their communities and seeing the miraculous, seeing lives changed, seeing people coming to Christ on a regular and consistent basis.
However, it is critical that we do not miss this point:
WE HAVE SO FAR MISSED THE CRITICAL MASS TO TURN THIS SHIP AROUND
Many in the North American church seem to feel that if we can just get the right guy in the Oval Office, we can get legislation in place to stop the moral decay in the country. It is true that when people do not live holy lives within the liberty that the Lord provides, it is necessary to restrain lawlessness from the outside, lest people who are self-serving and bent on evil will make the world a bad place for those who will be taken advantage of.
But there have been pro-life presidents in the White House over the last number of decades, on and off. And yet, they have never had the political capitol and/or the political will to force sufficient change through the courts and/or through the legislature to turn that ship around. Millions of babies have been sacrificed on the altar of convenience over the years since Roe vs. Wade, and there doesn’t seem to be much standing in the way of that. Republican presidents haven’t done much more about that than democratic ones. The same record has happened in Canada. For all the years there was a conservative prime minister in parliament, abortion laws never changed to where it became illegal to kill a baby in the womb.
Our country is divided because the heart of the people is divided. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes, and not many are willing or even interested in voting for the greater good of the society in general rather than voting on the basis of “what’s in it for me.”
The bottom line is these problems will not be fixed in our courts and legislatures but on our knees.
If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chr. 7:14)
But it will take a LOT of prayer – the kind of prayer that breaks us out of our complacency, our self-serving, our desire for ease, comfort, safety and security. As goes the Church, so goes the culture in which it blooms (or withers and dies).
Be the change. Be the church.
And if we, as the church, do not learn to take seriously our calling to prayer and to holiness, God will not be stopped from conforming us to His image. He may just end up using the pain and suffering of persecution to put us there. Either way, God will have His way in us, if we want Him to move.