They have had too much wine

Maybe it’s only a spelling error, but I think it’s much more than that.

Jeffrey L. Samelson

You see, as the beneficiaries of Christ’s redemption and resurrection, we believers are supposed to see ourselves as victors over everyone and everything that opposes our Savior and his church. Yet it seems more and more Christians in our society present themselves as victims. “You can’t treat us this way!” they cry. “This isn’t fair!” they complain. “Feel sorry for me!” they plead.

These “Why me?” moments come in response not to real persecution or martyrdom, but to changes in the law and society. Respect that our faith used to command decreases as Christianity’s influence decreases and others increasingly deem us irrelevant, or worse. Things believers took for granted—the recognition of Christian holidays, a favored relationship with the state, a shared and stable understanding of what is moral—have slipped away and left many saying, “Stop! You can’t do that—we’re Christians!” When that doesn’t work, “Waah! Everybody hates us. Everything is going wrong. There’s no hope left, society is doomed, and the sun will never shine on us again.” (Okay, I exaggerate—a bit.)

But what examples do we have in Scripture? Did the first martyr Stephen, who felt the stones of his enemies, say, “Stop! You can’t do this to me; I follow Jesus!” When the apostle Paul listed all the times he had been attacked, abused, and imprisoned, did he say, “If things don’t improve soon, I’m quitting!”?

That’s not the way you remember it, right? Let’s remember instead the truth of what we’re experiencing now in our society. Jesus, who was “stricken, smitten, and afflicted” and who before his oppressors “did not open his mouth,” remained silent “as a sheep before her shearers” (Isaiah 53:4,7). He tells us to expect crosses, not comfort, as we follow him. He reminds us that his kingdom is not of this world, so we should not expect this world to bow to the beliefs he gave to his disciples. And Paul, who suffered untold abuse as an apostle in hostile environments, seems to be speaking directly to our situation today when he says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16).

We shouldn’t expect the Christian perspective to be at the top of our society, culture, or government. We are not entitled to special treatment because we follow Jesus, unless you count being “handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and . . . hated by all nations” as special. As we see wickedness increase around us, Jesus does not tell us that it’s time for Christians to rise up and reclaim their lost advantages. Instead he tells us that “the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:9,12).

This should not lead to despair, but to a renewed focus. The gospel of salvation by grace through trust in Jesus Christ is needed all the more by everyone, us included, as the world gets increasingly unfriendly to our faith. The last thing we want to present to unbelievers around us is a woe-is-me, whining witness. Let’s show them something better: that rather than victims, we are victors in Christ—and they can be too.

Contributing editor Jeffrey Samelson is pastor at Christ, Clarksville, Maryland.

 

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Author: Jeffrey L. Samelson
Volume 102, Number 9
Issue: September 2015

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