Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Matthew 26:32-34 (ESV)
The events of our past decade have been very unsettling to me and many of my friends. I‘ve been stripped of the belief that my family and I live in a “Christian” country by the lack of pushback against agendas seeking to undermine the ability of some with traditional beliefs to live out their faith in the public square.
While Christ-followers in 21st century America don’t experience the hostility and dangers faced by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, especially Muslim-controlled countries, my experience in identifying trends and patterns in the culture suggests to me that our religious liberty as we have known it throughout our adult lives in America may be coming to an end. Traditional Christian teachings regarding the family, marriage and sexuality have come under relentless assault by the champions of sexual liberty without guilt or consequence. Our institutions (large corporations, government, academia) are squarely on the other side in the culture war. You will be made to care.
As we celebrate the Easter story, I’ve felt drawn to the story of Peter and his denial of Christ. On the one hand, Peter had reason to fear for his life when the servant girl asked if he was a follower of Jesus. On the other hand, Peter followed Jesus for three years as a member of his inner circle and was witness to the miracles Jesus performed during his earthly ministry. If he was unable to resist the temptation to deny Jesus, how will I do when the time comes?
I worry that my own faith and the faith of many of my fellow Christians is a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s one thing to profess one’s faith in front of a room filled with like-minded people. It’s another thing when there might be a price attached to that profession.
In the future, persons who require a government-issued license in order to work will be especially vulnerable. I worry about my daughter who plans to apply to med school in the fall. What will she do if she’s required to assist with or perform abortions in order to graduate from med school or her residency program? What if she’s required to assist her patients in committing suicide? What would I do if the government demands I do something that represents a major violation of conscience? In all likelihood, we won’t find ourselves sitting by a fire in fear of our lives when we confront our “rooster.” But we may be sitting in the office of a school administrator, the human resources director or a state licensing board when our rooster is ready to crow.
I have lots of thoughts about what our churches need to be doing to better prepare our people for the time when living out one’s Christian faith will lead to adversity, but they’re beyond the scope of today’s post. But it’s absolutely clear that for us to stand firm in the face of hostility, we’ll need the power of the Holy Spirit, and we’ll need the encouragement and support of one another. That’s why we need to do a better job of welcoming all who would seek to worship to our churches.
- How is the shy or socially awkward teen going to be prepared to handle the challenges to their faith they’re likely to encounter at college if they don’t have a church to fall back upon?
- How will the young counselor or psychologist respond to a client seeking help in turning away from an alternative sexual lifestyle when supporting such a client may represent a career-ending decision without a Christian community to support them?
- How will a parent with no savings, kids in college and a mortgage respond when their employer strongly suggests they affirm a practice that conflicts with the teachings of the Bible?
Let’s celebrate Jesus’ resurrection today with our families and our fellow Christians. But let’s not forget that we don’t have any more time to waste if we are to be sufficiently prepared to follow him faithfully in the years ahead,