When the Government – or Society – Is Against You: What Should Christians Do?

Some American Christians worry that we are being “persecuted” and that our “freedom of religion” is being infringed. That’s always true to some extent – and the idea is scary.

How did Jesus deal with it?

Jesus practiced non-violent non-cooperation toward evil persons. The results of his courage were both short-term and long-term, mostly good, some brutally bad.

Jesus’ immediate followers – the Christians of the first century, also faced lots of suffering.

  • They suffered government harassment, even arrest and execution.
  • They suffered from neighbors and fellow-citizens – the insulting or aggressive behavior of others around them in society.
  • They suffered all the normal pains and sorrows of human life, of which there are many.
  • They wrote about such tensions and how to think about and deal with them.
  • And their numbers grew as people were attracted to their concrete love and obvious sincerity.

Peter wrote, for example, about “fiery trials” – being accused unjustly, suffering horribly in spite of being good people. That’s happening to many in our world today, for many different reasons.

The crucial thing here is to learn what approach WE should take when developments in the world around seem to threaten us in particular. And Peter gives specific, unambiguous guidance.

As Christians we must take seriously his advice since we will face “normal” difficulties just like everybody else. And sometimes there will be actual persecution for our faith. (The Bible also strongly emphasizes how to respond when OTHER people are being mistreated – a subject for another article.)

REALISTIC ADVICE FOR LIVING IN SCARY TIMES (1 Peter 4:7-11)

However severe it is,
even if “the end of all things is near” as Peter says,
live in grace ANYway –
practice simple, straightforward Christian living –
THAT’s what he urges on them.

If we think that our current situation demands some other political or legal or military strategy – we’d best be sure we’re fully implementing THIS Biblical and apostolic strategy first – don’t you think?

A. Be Thoughtful.

The temptation under threat is to panic. Or to freeze up. To lash out. To hide. Or to let our thoughts race like crazy. To jump to conclusions – maybe about what’s going to happen, maybe about what we’d better do fast! Or to strike back verbally, physically, or with the arm of government.

But Peter says, first, to settle down and start thinking realistically. “Be clear-minded and self-controlled.” Even that can be frightening – but he clearly says to do it. Good thing to work on.

B. Pray

The most crucial “secret” to effective prayer is honesty. Healthy humility doesn’t hurt either. And a crucial ingredient of both honesty and humility is thoughtfulness, or awareness. So he says, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so you can pray.”

Ahh, so we should pray – thoughtfully, honestly!

Settle down, think, and bring those thoughts, concerns, fears, ideas and hopes all fully and explicitly into the presence of the Lord in prayer. The testimony of history – of those who have actually worked on prayer – is that it is well worth the time and effort. Pray. Good thing to work on.

C. Love. Deeply.

Well look! It’s the second of Jesus’ two greatest commandments! “Love you neighbor as yourself.” Are we surprised that Peter asks Christians under stress to continue to practice their faith?

Great Commandment #1: Love God – and think honestly so you can come to God in effective prayer.

Great Commandment #2: Love your neighbors. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” “Above all!” Good thing to work on.

D. Practice Hospitality

This is not about coffee and donuts. It’s about welcoming people – even strangers.

The Greek word used here is sort of the opposite of “philadelphia”, which means “love of brothers.” This one’s built of two words that mean “love of strangers.” That’s a major Biblical theme – loving foreigners, strangers, aliens, people who are not us and not just like us. It’s about extending that love into practical welcome, practical service, practical cooperation. That’s the kind of thing Peter thinks we should be doing when we’re afraid. Awesome Christian morality! And “without grumbling!” A good thing to work on.

E. Serve Others with Your Abilities, Whatever They Are

“The end of all things is near, therefore… each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” Our individual abilities or experiences are gifts of God and he intends us to use them to the benefit of others around us.

Eyes up, off the ground, off our fears about ourselves and our anger, outward to the needs of those around.

This requires a certain thoughtfulness – to be aware of two things: 1) what the needs really are, and 2) what the ways are in which we each might particularly be able to help.

Yet another good thing to work on.

So – here’s what he tells us:

I Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is near.

  1. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled
  2. so that you can pray.
  3. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
  4. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
  5. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

SUMMARY

1 Peter 4:19

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter makes clear that THIS is the way Christ will in fact be worshiped and God honored.

. . . so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

We Christians must do what Christ asks of us, and this is what He is asking. Peter says a few sentences later, “This is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”



Comments

When the Government – or Society – Is Against You: What Should Christians Do? — 6 Comments

  1. Ayn Rand wasen’t your `run of the mill’ sinner. her philosiphys have been embraced by the Church & they continue on through the Ayn Rand Institute. Rev.2:14&15; she taught the `way of Balaam’ to entice Israelites (Christians) to sin*. [20]..you tolerate that woman & her teachings..[24]..satans so-called Deep Secrets..[17:2]..with her..kings commited adultery..people were intoxicated with wine of her adultries*..& [17:6]she was drunk with the blood of the saints. She told Mike Wallace; Christianity & objectivism can’t exist together, so her followers, rather than destroy from the outside, co-opted Christianity & are destroying It from the inside & anyone who sees this & speaks up are condemned as Liberals & Socialists. *Amos 5:7-6:1 *Eze.16:49

    • “Wasn’t your run of the mill sinner?” There’s Lost, and there’s Found; apart from Christ we were all the former, more or less shrill and hateful. Rand is not popular enough with anyone to be a Jezebel, and her cold, sterile, system is about the LEAST seductive philosophy out there.

      While you are right in that objectivism and Christianity cannot exist together, you are mistaken in thinking conservative Christians are objectivist infiltrators, or under the influence of them. Maybe you have confused our views with “prosperity gospel” gnosticism a la Oral Roberts?

      Most of the people I go to church with have no idea what objectivism is- would not agree with it if they did- and have been philosophically shaped by “How Should We Then Live”, not “Atlas Shrugged”. Let’s face it: the way of Balaam could be any number of things- seeker friendly, theology lite services pop foremost into my mind- but the Ayn Rand Institute is not one of them.

  2. You are right, thank God, that the Church in America hasn’t suffered barbarities to be compared with Pakistan or Sudan or any of the other dark corners of this world. But does this make us complacent instead of thankful, and for all the inhuman atrocities of tyrants and imams, has secular humanism discovered a more effective way to stifle the Church?

    As for getting in bed with the devil and Ayn Rand objectivism, here are my thoughts, as a representative of what you would call the “Christian” right. Perhaps you suppose that we admire Ayn Rand uncritically? Not so. Rand slandered our faith in unjust and ill-informed terms that Christians of any political persuasion ought to refute; her principles- in effect if not design- tend dangerously to social darwinism, which is irreconcilable to every human’s bearing the image of God. However, while Rand wrongly rejects the benefits of church, charity, and family in her glorification of self-sufficiency, she does rightly abhor bureaucrats who manufacture dependency to stay in power. Atlas Shrugged illustrates in graphic, chilling detail, the lunacy of a bloated government gluttonous for control and the moral (and fiscal) bankruptcy of crony socialism. We recognize that Ayn Rand’s objectivism is wrong in many ways, but Christian progressives ought to embrace Marx and Keynes – and Mr. Obama- equally at their peril.

  3. I’m glad that this blog has “Risen from the dead”. Right now, in this nation, we are are seeing many on the “Christian” right claiming persecution. They really don’t no what persecution is. They need to talk to the Presiding Anglican Bishop of Pakistan.

    Looking at the fight over health care, It is hard for me to believe that these folks read the same bible that I read. Don’t they know they are in bed with the Devil. Aren’t they aware of how anti-christian Ayn Rand Objectivism is, and how influential the Libertarians are in the tea bag movement. God save the Republic!

    • “Aren’t they aware of how anti-christian Ayn Rand Objectivism is..” NO they are not. A few months before this past election I saw a documentary on Ayn Rand. Had never read her work but only heard good things about her. I was floored when I began hearing throughout the film, exactly articulations of the modern conservative movement, and things most of my Christian friends agree with. I was already disgusted with the Christian marriage to right-wing politics, but that pushed me over the edge and I couldn’t think of anything much more opposed to the teachings of Christ. I began writing a blog called Fish Foam on blogger – just could not keep silent, and I have so much more to say.

      Then I came across a book by Terry Wildman called “Sign Language”, about Native Americans and Christianity, and I became even more appalled… and more disillusioned with our “Godly heritage”. Please keep writing this blog. More voices need to be heard. God bless!!

      • We are aware of Ayn Rand’s hostility to religion in general and Christianity in particular; her vehemence on the subject is thoroughly documented and perfectly obvious to anyone who has read anything that she wrote. However, her philosophy, though flawed at best, recognized the benefits of free commerce, which she codified thus: “It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free voluntary exchange to mutual benefit.” A statement, I hope, that any Christian would agree is- theoretically at least- fair and just, and Biblically redeemable in its call for diligence, honesty, personal responsibility, and prudence.

        On the other hand, she abhorred God and grace, and poured contempt on original sin and the need of redemption, for which she ought to be censured.
        In presuming man to be the end unto himself, she secured his rights to the mere temporary accident of his being alive, rather than the dignity he is endowed with as a creature formed in the image of Eternal God; rights, when thought to be granted from any perishable human quality- or institution- are equally perishable.

        Though there is great prescience in her condemnation of an overbearing centralized government, objectivism offers only superficial solutions. Ayn Rand thought that the problem with society was a pervasive suicidal irrationality, when that is just one symptom. The real problem is sin, and ultimately, the only solution is Christ. She was, as were we all, dead to Christ, and it shows. But we should not demonize her, for she was just another lost sinner who needed grace more than she knew.

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