Wednesday, July 25, 2007

They hated me without reason

Winston Churchill said “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” And it's what we have in Great Britian today. Democracy. And when you're in a democracy many things are good but the downside is if you're a minority. Majority rules. Often the majority feels a bit bad about this and so offers freedoms and rights to the minorities to avoid the sense that it's oppressing them. Nonetheless, majority rules.

What do you do when you used to be a majority but no longer are? I think that is an issue the church has to face up to in the years ahead. There is no such (biblical) thing as a Christian nation in these last days, but Britain certainly used to be shaped by some sort of Christian principles. Britain was not a theocracy where the law says you must worship God alone. But, it was a nation in which the government's divinely appointed role of punishing evil and praising good was more accurately focussed it is today.

A society that favoured freedom for the church is a nice one to live in when you're a Christian, though that's been a rare priviledge in history. I can't help wondering whether it really does the church any favours to be the majority vote. The church often looks strongest when its weakest in the worlds terms.

What is sure is that Christian are to submit to authorities as they imperfectly punish and praise. That was the case when the law was 'christianised' and it is today. Christians should live blameless lives, be the 'best' people in society, the ones who fight for the cause of the oppressed, who help the needy, who serve without recognition. That should always have been the case. I don't know whether it is today, or ever was.

What is the case are increasing numbers of headlines claiming Christians are persecuted. All who live a godly life are persecuted so its something a Christian almost welcomes as a verification of their faith. However, Titus 2 tells us that it remains possible for Christians to be maligned for being ungodly in marriage, lacking self-control and being bad employees. Such opposition isn't actually persecution - it's deserved. We follow the Jesus who appeared as grace incarnate to make us pure, where is our purity? If we make mistakes we facing the punishment or consequences not persecution.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been studying John 13-17. Jesus speaks there of how the world has hated him without cause. And he says the same will happen to Christians. A sinful world doesn't need reason to hate Jesus and his people. Our presence is enough to incite opposition. Our purity is meant to make the gospel attractive to those who will believe, and yet is the stench of an abattoir to those who refuse to believe.

What do we do when we're persecuted for godliness or hated without cause? We remember not to take it personally - hatred for genuinely godly Christians if really hatred for Jesus himself. He is opposed. His word maligned. And so we continue to obey Jesus. To stand by his word.

And surely we're to continue to fight for those who are oppressed - not necessarily fighting our own cause - with great self-interest but longing for a society in which it is evil that in punished and good that is praised, and not vice-versa. We're to continue to love boundlessly and serve thanklessly. If nothing else such inhuman endurance is bewildering to the watching world.

Who doesn't fight for their rights when opposed? Who loves when they're hated? The church has flourished under such pressure for 2000 years. We're to pray for our opponents, not so much for relief as for mercy for them. And we're to go on living, with Jesus as our example. As Peter wrote "If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

How should I live? I should fight for justice for others, but I don't need it for myself because I can entrust myself to the judge of all. However much I might suffer he has already suffered - not just as an example but bearing my sins on a cursed tree so I wouldn't go on sinning, but by his power live an extraordinary righteous life under the rule of my Shepherd and Overseer, Jesus. I struggle and labour with all his energy.