How are we Christians to live in a world that is becoming increasingly godless and antagonistic toward us?
James F. Pope
Your assessment of life in these last days is accurate and in harmony with what the Bible says: “There will be terrible times in the last days. . . . Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:1,12). Let’s see what other guidance Scripture provides to answer your question.
REVEAL YOUR IDENTITY
As Christians you and I have an identity that is worth noting. The Bible calls us “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9). That description applies to us because God has worked in our hearts through his Word. The Spirit of God connected us to Jesus Christ in faith, bringing us into God’s family and changing our lives forever. God has transformed our hearts and minds, leading us to view him, sin, and life in general differently than people who are still living in unbelief.
As Christians we are different from unbelievers, and that difference is to be evident in our daily lives. The Bible exhorts us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2). “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15). Failure to display our faith will be of no help to unbelievers. On the other hand, when we do exhibit our faith we enable unbelievers to see the love of Christ in action and give them reason to explore what Christianity is all about.
Still, do not expect the unbelieving world to pat you on the back for being a Christian. The Bible makes it very clear that we can anticipate just the opposite reaction from a world naturally opposed to God.
Jesus was up front with his followers about the treatment they would receive in life: “You will be hated by everyone because of me” (Matthew 10:22). “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). One of the disciples who personally heard those words wrote: “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). As an aside, isn’t it interesting how unbelievers wrongly call Christians “haters” for their scriptural positions, when in reality they are the haters?
The Lord spoke of us taking up our cross and following him (Matthew 10:38; 16:24). The Christian cross is whatever we suffer for being a follower of Jesus Christ. Your question is a reminder that our crosses are likely to become more numerous as times goes on, but we are still to bear them as we follow the Lord through life.
There is one final word from Jesus to consider. After explaining a parable, our Savior asked: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). It is a haunting question that gets us thinking about the extent of unbelief and godlessness in the last days—and on the Last Day.
So, how are we Christians to live in a world that is becoming increasingly godless and antagonistic toward us? We continue to live our faith. We do so, not with a persecution complex that leads us to imagine troubles, but with a realistic expectation of persecution and, of course, with confidence in the Lord’s powerful love!
Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.
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Author: James F. Pope
Volume 102, Number 09
Issue: September 2015
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