Believers in a Culture That Is Increasingly Hostile to Christianity
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Romans 12:18
I don’t think it’s any secret that America is becoming increasingly hostile towards the gospel. My first taste of how much the world can hate Jesus actually took place in Israel back in 1992. I spent the summer in the Holy Land as part of a class I was taking at Bible college. For eight weeks we traveled through most of the country, stuffing mail boxes with evangelistic tracts, hanging posters about “Yeshua” in the dead of night, selling Biblical kids’ books door-to-door, and on occasion doing open-air evangelism with Messianic believers (ethnic Jews who were followers of Jesus). One particular evening we were gathered on a promenade in the seaside resort town of Netanya near Tel Aviv, singing together Jewish praise songs from the book of Psalms. We caught the attention of some Orthodox Jews, who at first were elated by our singing - but then we started sharing about Yeshua, and chaos ensued. Several Orthodox Jews nearly came to blows with one of the evangelists in our group, who simply remained silent as he turned his cheek from side to side. Helicopters circled overhead as police desperately tried to prevent a riot; afterwards many people approached us, asking to know more about the peace they witnessed.
Years later I experienced a very similar response on the streets of San Francisco while sharing the gospel in the Castro neighborhood - gay ground zero. I won’t repeat some of the crude, vulgar insults that came our way, but that doesn’t really matter. Despite the opposition I and many others had the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with people who desperate for love and truth.
Randy Alcorn has also seen the hostility Christians increasingly face in America. However, opposition from unbelievers doesn’t have him worried - the church has been under attack since the very beginning. Alcorn’s concern has to do with the way professing Christians have responded to opposition. He writes:
Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). ...I’m concerned if we view ourselves as one more special interest group, clinging to entitlements and whining when people don’t like us. God’s people have a long history of not being liked.
So how should believers respond? Paul’s words in Romans 12:18 are a good place to start: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
The gospel is good news! However, that same good news is also a slap in the face to those who don’t know Jesus. Who wants to learn they’re going to hell without him? Alcorn writes:
But the fact is, while the gospel is good news, it is also insulting. Many people don’t like being called sinners and told they deserve to go to hell. Peter said, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
I am historically someone who is very easily influenced by the opinions of others. I shy away from confrontation and can easily give up when things get hard. That’s why this statement rang so true to me: If our eyes are on anyone but Jesus, we’re not going to have the stamina to put up with criticism or outright hostility.
For his final thoughts Alcorn says this:
Jesus is the Audience of One. We will stand before His judgment seat, no one else’s. We should long to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What other people think won’t matter.
May our eyes be ever fixed upon Jesus, and may our light shine bright in this dark, dark world!!!