The people of God have historically thrived in oppressive, resistant and hostile societies.
THE HISTORY OF GOD'S PEOPLE
The Israelites lived under the cruelty of an abusive Egyptian king, yet "...the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread..." (Exodus 1:12). Despite the systematic attempts of indoctrination into an Egyptian worldview, Daniel refused to compromise his allegiance to God and in the end "...the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom..." (Daniel 6:3). The consistent message of the New Testament is that the road to glory will be paved with suffering (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:12-13; Romans 8:18). Jesus Himself says that those who are reviled, persecuted and hated on His account are blessed and can rejoice in the midst of oppression because in the end the reward of the coming Kingdom that awaits them is great and glorious and worth it. (Matthew 5:11-12)
The trajectory of history is clear: The people of God will thrive and the Kingdom of God will advance, not in the calm of an accommodating society but in the chaos of a corrupt one. Today need not be different. We are merely a continuation of a divine trend established long ago that will continue to unfold long from now.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
There is an extreme emphasis today on political correctness, tolerance and cultural sensitivity - and in many cases, rightly so. It helps combat generations of prejudices. It guards against offensiveness where none is warranted. It respects the heritage, positions and uniquenesses of individuals and people groups and safeguards against their unlawful or discriminatory treatment. However, when held as the highest degree of cultural progress it perpetuates a culture of fear and passivism, where the freedom to say anything hard or true when necessary is squashed by the threat of severe social or legal consequences. Slip up and the media will slaughter you, the courts may indict you, or both. Loyalty is valued over honesty. Coddling over correcting. Pandering over challenging.
In large degree the current trajectory sets its sites on removing the evangelical voice from most if not all of the cultural conversation. Attempts to muzzle the influence of the Church in society are continually being taken with increased fervor and intensity. Claims of being intolerant, judgmental, narrow-minded and unloving are used as ammunition fired at anyone who challenges the current trends or questions the status quo or claims to speak "truth" which has all but been redefined as a subjective term. A systematic removal of God from the public scene is occurring in our country as we are moving increasingly closer to becoming a post-Christian society. The question is, where does the Church stand in our current cultural climate? Or perhaps a better question is, HOW should the Church stand?
OUR HOPE MOVING FORWARD
Given the historical precedence of how the movement of the Kingdom of God has thrived throughout generations despite being met with hostility and defiance, today need not be different. The only threat our current society poses is a threat to itself, not to any further advancement of the Kingdom of God. As history dictates, the more you try to oppress the people of God the more you end up oppressing yourself. God's Kingdom can thrive in a society which has actively set itself against it - not because room has been offered for it to be practiced freely and comfortably, but because consequences have been threatened forcing the truth to be lived with integrity and authenticity despite the implications. Peter speaks to how "all kinds of trials" are to be welcomed as instruments which prove "the genuineness of your faith" (1 Peter 1:6-7). James calls us to consider these trials as "pure joy" because "the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-4). Paul claims the perseverance that trials produce through us ultimately help form and shape a deep character within us resulting in a hope for us that "does not disappoint". (Romans 5:3-5)
The consistent message of the New Testament is this: We have hope, not in the absence of trials, hostility, oppression and defiance, but through these things. They do not weaken us but in fact make us stronger. They deepen our resolve to cling to Jesus and incite within us a longing to see His truer and greater Kingdom come more fully. They provide us the opportunity to believe all the more that Jesus is winning not in spite of, but through, the leaders He has over our country (on both sides of the aisle), the legislation they are passing, the cultural wars we are fighting and the slippery slope of tolerance and correctness we are riding. Jesus is winning in and through and around all of that. His Kingdom is advancing. This hope alleviates any concern that tonight's news will try to plant within us.
So, if oppression produces faithfulness then so be it. If it produces authenticity then we welcome it. If it provides an opportunity for us to learn to love well without compromise then praise God for it. True faith will be revealed not in our ability to exist in the calm of an accommodating society but to thrive in the chaos of a corrupt one. Perhaps, at the end of the day, our job is not to fight against society so much as it is to learn to thrive within it - to spend less time being against the world and more time being for seeing the Kingdom of God evidenced in it. Maybe facing opposition in this endeavor is the best thing for us as a generation - not because we find pleasure in experiencing pain but because we find a greater intensity of purpose in persevering through it. It leaves no room for us to "play church" - it demands we be The Church, for real.