If you are a faithful Christian, your day will come. I don’t mean to sound gloomy, but it’s true. There will come a day when you face the threat of religious persecution. This shouldn’t surprise or alarm you because Jesus warned us that it would happen (John 16:1-4). Here in the US, the good news is that it likely won’t be life-threatening, the bad news is that it will still be difficult.
When it comes to issues such as human sexuality, abortion, or religious expression in general, the culture has dramatically shifted away from traditional Christian values. Anyone who still holds to those values risks being labeled a bigot and being ostracized. Two recent examples include Hobby Lobby being attacked for refusing to pay for birth control that might abort a pregnancy and Brendon Eich being forced to step down as CEO of Mozilla when it became public that he gave financial support for a law in favor of traditional marriage. If you’re like me, it probably scares you to think about the day when you’ll have to comment on one of these issues in front of friends, family or co-workers that might disagree with you. So how do we handle this type of situation?
What you should NOT do
- Cower: the easiest way to handle these situations is to act like Peter did when he was asked whether he was a follower of Jesus: deny, deny, deny. One could simply pretend to disagree with what the Bible teaches, just to save themselves. The problem with that is that the Bible calls us to be salt and light to the world (Matt. 5:13-16). This means that we have to stand up for what we believe is right rather than going along just to get along.
- Stay neutral: this reminds me of what we used to say when I was a kid: “my name is Bennet and I ain’t in it.” This meant that when placed in a tough position, just punt or avoid taking any side at all costs. Some Christians respond with something like “who am I to judge?” First, this might not be good enough because some seek affirmation of their own position and won’t let you off the hook so easily. Second, I think people place too much weight on Matthew 7:1 (Judge not, that you be not judged) and forget Matthew 7:2 (For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged…). The Bible doesn’t teach us to avoid making decisions about somebody else’s behavior, it teaches us not to be self-righteous or harsh when we do.
What you SHOULD do
- Pray: before Jesus was crucified, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed for strength from God the Father. This is often one of my prayer points. I think it’s important to pray for courage to do the right thing, especially when we’re called to love our attackers while they are attacking us (Luke 23:34).
- Prepare: part of the fear we have comes from not knowing how to answer challenges on your stance. I think it’s important to understand what the Bible teaches and then discuss these issues in the Church amongst fellow believers. This gives us a chance to work out our position in a friendly setting, which can help us gain confidence.
- Lay the foundation: 1 Peter 2:12 says “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” I think it is immensely important that Christians make themselves known as people of good character. If this is the case, it will be difficult for people to write you off as hateful and they might actually take the time to hear your position.
As with many things in life, all of this is easier said than done. Nonetheless I pray that Christians will lovingly step up to the plate and swing for the fences when their time comes.