Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sometimes Opportunity is the Child of Adversity

Acts 8: 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. 4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.

Throughout history, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has spread and flourished during times and in places of persecution, hardship, and the moral bankruptcy of societies.  We see this in the book of Acts and the early history of the Church. It can be seen today in countries all over the world. In some places a particular religion is favored by the state. In others Christianity is regarded as seditious or treasonous. Many Christians have been imprisoned, tortured and killed.
In the U.S. Christians have not yet, for the most part, experienced the kind of persecution that threatens our lives. Persecution for us has involved lawyers rather than storm troopers. Our rights under the Constitution are being marginalized. Our day may come but our current plight does not compare to that of the jailed pastor of a Chinese house church.
For most of my 52 years, Christians have watched with alarm as American society has declined morally. The response to this has often been to organize politically. The phrase “take America back” has been one spoken from the church pulpit and the campaign stump. When Ronald Reagan won the White House in 1980, It may have seemed that the tide had turned in favor of Conservative/family values/Judeo Christian principles. That was an illusion
It was also wrong-headed. I believe God will always expose and chastise His people when Christians deceive themselves (I'm pleading guilty) into believing their hollow, temporal, man-centered victory is from Him. The open displays of sinful behavior we see flaunted today did not appear out of thin air. These are simply the desires of man coming out of the shadows into the open.
The United States has never been led by people who were not tainted by sin. On the one hand, we can be patriotic and appreciative of our freedom and the good things the U.S. has done for the world. On the other, we recognize the dark intervals in which our nation perpetrated evil.
The desire for the victory of high principles has often kept us from recognizing the fact that there are real people behind the caricatures invented for the purpose of winning debates and elections. For instance, my opinion about immigration policy remains what it has always been. But no one in Washington is asking for my opinion. To allow our domestic grievances to become an impediment to the Gospel puts us on a par with people Jesus described as a brood of Vipers.
The fact that U.S. borders are essentially open and porous is a source of political and moral frustration for an ideological Conservative like me. But think about how many lost people we Christians may encounter as the world enters this country. The opportunity for the spread of the Gospel could be huge. Your ‘neighbor’ (in the Biblical sense) needs to hear the Gospel regardless of the means by which he or she entered the country.
Immigration policy is only one example. The challenge for American Christians is to reconsider what it means to honor God in the marketplace. If you encounter, corruption, preach the Gospel. If you see sin on parade, don’t try to force it back into the shadows. Preach the Gospel. If you are exposed to every kind of sinner among your neighbors, preach the Gospel. Because such were some of you.