Wednesday, November 14, 2012

President Obama & Persecution Complexes


Since President Obama won re-election as our nation's president, the chatter on Facebook has been somewhat amusing.  In response to that chatter, I posted the following status update:

"All of this talk about Christian persecution coming under four more years of Obama is amusing. The only Christians who get persecuted are those who: 1) share the gospel when the government says not to (check the Book of Acts) or 2) stand against evil when the majority are toeing the line (see the Book of Daniel). If you haven't already been doing these things when you had the freedom to do it,
what in the world makes you think you will do it when you don't have those freedoms? The government WILL NOT CARE if you keep the gospel inside of your church walls and only vote against evil. Every oppressive government has allowed churches to meet just as long as they keep their mouths shut (Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, China even has state controlled churches). If persecution is coming, don't worry, you won't see any of it just so long as your Christianity is limited to your church attendance."
I've been somewhat pleased to see this get reposted on Facebook.  I hope it goes fully viral and people think seriously about these statements because they reflect a reality that few in church leadership are willing to admit.  What we do in the church building is not impacting society because the church membership is not taking what they know outside of the four walls.  If they do, it is thickly masked under the guise of friendship evangelism which involves no real gospel proclamation in most cases (not all).   As long as this is the case, we cannot expect any persecution.  

The Cause

Many prominent evangelical leaders hold to a type of theology which emphasizes the "not yet" aspect of the Kingdom of God while ignoring the many Scriptures which say that Jesus Christ has always been King and His clear teaching that the Kingdom arrived in manifestation when He arrived.  They ignore the massive amount of Biblical data regarding the Sovereignty of God over ALL nations, not just Israel.  They minimize the work of the Kingdom to be a sort of theological "show and tell" where believers gather mainly to gain information in a semi-gnostic exercise where the things of the soul are good and everything in the physical realm is evil.  

As long as this thinking is prominent in evangelical churches, the idea of pending persecution is a sort of sadistic fantasy for those who hold it.  If you believe what the Bible says, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15) it will impact how you view the issues of our day.  Even more, it will deeply concern you that anyone rebels against King Jesus and it won't be enough to complain about it on Facebook or vote once every couple of years.    

An Example

For example, consider the issue of abortion.  

Many would say, "Well, yes, I am against abortion.  I think it is murder.  But what else can we expect from this world?  We know that when Jesus comes back that He will set all things right and until then, things will only get worse.  In fact, the worse it gets, the better off we are since it means that Jesus will come back sooner.  We're told to expect this so we should not be surprised.  Maranatha!  Come quickly!  In the meantime, I will vote pro-life."

The believer who holds to what the Bible says about the Kingdom would say, "Yes, I am against abortion.  It is murder.  This is rebellion against the Law of God.  Abortion must end.  It's not enough to be pro-life.  I must go intervene for the lives of the unborn and live out the Kingdom on this earth as one of the subjects of His Kingdom.  I must work to end abortion because that is my responsibility as a servant in His Kingdom.  While I do, the gospel goes with me and is proclaimed to every mother, father, and politician I meet in the process."  

Of course, there are those who hold to bad thinking who advocate for the unborn.  I don't mean to say that they don't exist.  But in most cases, they are not the product of their theology.  They are an exception and not a rule.
Since Kingdoms that are in force have laws, a Biblical understanding is logically consistent since the only Biblical ethic against the evil of abortion comes from the Old Testament.  There is no specific New Testament Scripture which speaks against abortion.  Yet many will say that we are under the New Covenant and not the Old, as if the Old Testament is suddenly irrelevant.  Nevertheless, it is the New Covenant which, referring to the Old Testament, says "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable..." (2 Tim. 3:16).  Therefore, it is right to fight to end abortion based on the Word of God. 

If you take all of this seriously, a sanctity of life Sunday isn't going to cut it.  Voting for pro-life presidents, congressmen, senators, and having Republican-appointed pro-life Supreme Court justices won't cut it (ever notice how having the majority in these positions has never overturned Roe v. Wade?).  The only thing that will pass muster will be a living out of true religion which advocates for the fatherless (the baby in the womb) and the widow (the mother at the clinic who doesn't have a man to provide for her) as outlined in James 1:27.  


Now you need to know this.  If you advocate for the unborn, here are some real outcomes.  These are outcomes that have been experienced by me or friends I have done abortion clinic ministry with. 
--Your name could end up on a "no fly" terrorist list.  
--You could be physically assaulted.  
--You could be hit by a car outside of a clinic.
--You could be falsely accused of sexual assault.  
--You could be questioned by the FBI because the abortionist has made a false charge stating that you plan on blowing up the clinic.  
--Your family could be threatened by the abortionist if you take them to the clinic to intervene (an abortionist in Fort Worth swerved his car at my family as we stood outside).  
--You could go to jail.
--You could be cited for criminal trespass if you mistakenly stray onto an inch of the clinic's property while protesting.  
--You most certainly will be cussed out, threatened, have the police called on you, called a terrorist, and more.
None of these things will happen if you are voting for pro-life candidates while reading the Left Behind series.  
What's my point?  This is what persecution looks like.   "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12)
The same thing is true in street evangelism, by the way.  My experiences there have included:
--Watching a dear friend be arrested while passing out tracts and falsely accused of public drunkenness. 
--Getting spit on by a drug addict.
--Getting punched in the side of the head.
--Ticketed for using an amplifier in spite of complying with the law.
--Threatened with arrest.
--Having my property destroyed by hecklers.
--"Christians" opposing the preaching of the gospel.
--Being drowned out by bag pipers.
--Being drowned out by gay pride activists.
--Watching gospel tracts get confiscated as "contraband" by the Secret Service and then testifying against them in Federal Court.


What else have I seen?

--Teenagers in tears repenting of their sins.
--Mothers coming out of clinics beaming with joy because they have chosen to have their babies.
--Praying with a repentant man in front of the hotel where he was planning his adultery.
--Seeing college students repent at a parade. 
--Seeing another college student repent and get grounded in a local church.
--Seeing Muslims listen closely to the gospel.
--Having dinner with a gay pride activist and sharing the gospel, beginning a relationship that has lasted a few years.
--The opportunity to preach the gospel to a gathering of Mormons at an LDS Training Institute and pursuing the friendship that brought that about.

Is it worth the first two lists to get the third?  I think so.  I think any reasonable person could see these as worthy outcomes.  But there is a price to pay and frankly, I don't think too many are willing.  Too often we are content to become miniature Bible scholars who love our knowledge and our comfort more than we love the Lord or people.
By the way, I would have seen NONE of these things if I limited my thinking about the Kingdom of God to four walls on a Sunday.