Why Are Christians Being Trampled On?

by Andy Wood on May 6, 2013

in Life Currency, Love, LV Alter-egos, Pleasers, Tense Truths

hateCNN had an interesting story yesterday.  The headline: “When Christians Become a Hated Minority.”  Like so many other current cultural debates, it assumes that Christ followers are camped out on one issue.  Maybe that’s because that issue is the one place, seemingly, where the world has managed to join forces with the tide of popular opinion.  Now anybody who speaks out against homosexual behavior or gay marriage is a hate-filled bigot.

The article fairly raises the question of whether Christian-haters are the new bigots.  It points out that many believers avoid saying anything about, well, anything for fear of the backlash.

This raises a painful question for Christians:  Why are we being trampled on?  It sure seems that anywhere you turn anybody and everybody has the right to say whatever they want, do whatever pleases them, and demand to be accepted.  But let somebody mention Jesus or the word “Christian” and the arrows fly from all sides.

Here’s the problem:  We’re asking the wrong people.

I really appreciate the CNN coverage, but they don’t have the answers.  I respect the feedback from the Southern Poverty Law Center, but they don’t, either.  The answers to that question, at least for the understanding of Jesus followers, must come from Jesus; otherwise we’re following somebody else.  Make sense?

So if you’re feeling dissed by the world around you, I suggest you ask Jesus why it’s happening.  Since He’s still alive and all, I think He may actually have something to say about it.

Two Questions in One

The issue of the culture’s reaction to believers really contains two questions that often get lumped together.  The first is why the world persecutes Christians – and if you don’t think that’s happening, get your head out of the sand.

The second, and frankly, the one most American believers seem preoccupied with, is why Christians have lost their influence in our own culture.  If there ever was a moral majority (a quaint notion), it’s gone the way of plow mules and hoop skirts.  And there seems to be a lot of hand-wringing about why we can’t get our influence back.

I think it’s best if we consider these one at a time.

Why the World Persecutes Christians

One of the greatest spokespersons for Christ of all time – the Apostle Paul – had some advice for one of his young associates. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” he said (2 Timothy 3:12).

Jesus had his own perspective:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

If you’re an Evangelical Christian and wondering why the world system has “suddenly” turned on you, you may find yourself answering a different question when facing Christ:  What took you so long?

Do you think that somehow because you’re an American (assuming you are) or otherwise live in a “free” society you’re immune from opposition from people who are hostile to Christ?  Who do you think you are?  Is God supposed to apologize to Peter and Paul, James and Andrew, and every other martyr who refused to deny the name of Christ so they could go along and get along?

The world didn’t stop being the world, driven by lust, greed and pride, when “Christians” became “the majority” under Constantine.  Nor did it change when the Protestant Reformation began a new chapter in church history.  And it certainly didn’t change when the idea of a republican form of government arrived on the scene, complete with its Constitution and Bill of Rights.

It may seem unfair for God to allow His children to suffer persecution, but suffering makes us strong and patient.  God also uses our own rejection by the world to bring others to Christ.  Persecution teaches us to trust in God’s comfort and in the victory Jesus won on the cross.

If you spend your entire life trying to avoid being unpopular or facing difficulties for Jesus’ sake, you’re cheating yourself out of a life of fullness, maturity and real joy.  That doesn’t mean you’re supposed to go looking for a fight!  It simply means we’re to live for Christ, whatever the cost.

Why Christians Have Lost Their Influence

Just because we’re promised persecution doesn’t mean we are powerless to influence the world.  The same Christ who said we would be hated by people for His sake also described us as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”

He wasn’t giving the world any compliments.

Salt was a preservative in that hot, arid climate.  To refer to His disciples as salt and light suggests that the world is a decaying, dark place that needed the influence and hope only we can give.

So… how do we lose our impact?  Jesus said the salt can lose its flavor, or influence.  That actually happened in the first century with salt.  Once the mineral had been over-exposed to the elements, its “saltness” had leeched out.  It was still sodium chloride and still looked like salt.  But it lost its preserving power.

Care to guess what the Romans did with saltless salt?  They used it to make roads and sidewalks for people to walk on.

That’s the part of the verse we don’t like to quote:  “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

We’re being walked on because we’ve become saltless.

In practical terms, how does that happen?  Two ways.  First, by over-exposure to the values of the culture.  Christians lose influence when they lose their distinctiveness.  And frankly, in the great cultural value debates of the day, we lost our distinctiveness decades ago.  There is no statistical difference in any meaningful moral issue or life/health-threatening category between American Christians and non-Christians.  None.

Second, we lose our influence by isolation from people in the culture.  It has been instructive to see how supporters of gay marriage have changed popular hearts and minds.  The repeated refrain from politicians and regular folk has been, “I was against the idea until someone close to me shared their personal pain over the issue.”

In effect, somebody shared their “testimony” – their story – and made the argument personal.

I remember when Christians used to talk like that.  They would share their experiences with anybody who would listen because their lives had been so personally and wonderfully changed by Jesus.  If you’re follower of Jesus, how long has it been since you told your story to somebody who wasn’t?

Three Hopeful, Helpful Weapons

Please hear me.  I’m not judging the church, nor am I pointing fingers toward anybody that aren’t pointing also to me.  But I’m also not living without hope.  The same Jesus who said the salt could lose its savor said the gates of hell will NOT prevail against His church.

In fact, we have three things going for us:

1.  Grace

Anybody here besides me need the grace of God?  Am I the only one who’s left my integrity and influence in shambles at times?  Thank God He still sits on a mercy seat.

But before you plaster that snotty bumper sticker on your car about Christians not being perfect but forgiven, remember this:  It only takes an instant to be forgiven by God, but it can take a whole generation to regain lost moral authority.  In the world, “salvation” is still by works.

2.  Prayer

Something extraordinary happens when people humble themselves and pray and turn from their ungodly lifestyles.  Nicole C. Mullen puts it this way in her popular song:

I’m so very ordinary, nothing special on my own.
Oh, I have never walked on water,
And I have never calmed a storm.
Sometimes I’m hiding away from the madness around me
Like a child who’s afraid of the dark

But when I call on Jesus,
All things are possible
I can mount on wings like eagles’ and soar
When I call on Jesus,
Mountains are gonna fall
‘Cause He’ll move heaven and earth to come rescue me when I call.

3.  Love

I don’t mean approval.  I don’t mean being nice to people you agree with.  I mean inviting-Jerry-Sandusky-to-lunch love.  I mean showing-kindness-to-somebody-named-Gosnell-or-Tsarnaev love.  I mean caring-for-the-wounds-of-your-sworn-enemy love.

But before we get too crazy with this, there’s a better place to start.  Jesus said that everyone would know we are His disciples when we love each other.  Even that would be different from what the world is used to seeing.

Impossible?  Yes.

But with God…

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando May 6, 2013 at 8:05 am

We are being trampled on daily . . . Now, it seems Christianity is the only religion which is fair game for criticism and hate from the world and other religions. I agree that we have played into the games of our culture and many have lost their saltiness because of it. A very precarious and dangerous row to hoe, and not at all what Jesus expects from us.
May we, instead, cling to grace, prayer, and love, shining the light of the Lord into this dark and lost world.
Such a perfect and timely post, Andy. Thank you!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..I Love You!

Leslie Johnson May 6, 2013 at 10:48 am

Thank you for re-framing the question so well. You’re right. The world has not really changed. Perhaps the increasing persecution of Christians here in the United States provides an opportunity to re-examine and reclaim our faith, which has become a little soft and pudgy due to inactivity and lack of opposition over the last few generations. Could this turn out to be a blessing rather than a curse?

Melissa Lester May 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm

This is excellent and well put. Thank you for sharing.

Jessica May 7, 2013 at 8:27 am

All things are possible!! Amen! I love that you don’t just point fingers, but actually charge Christians with how to respond. We can’t change the world without first changing how we respond. Awesome post!

Kyle Turner May 7, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Exactly what I needed to hear! It has been much too long since I made a concerted effort to share my story with someone who isn’t a Christian. I need the grace of God daily and often, sadly, I don’t even realize it. I often only turn to God in prayer when I am in a time of need. What I want to remember is that I need Him daily. I want others to know Who’s I am through the love I show. Thank you for the post!

jamie May 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

“Why are Christian’s being trampled on” is a rhetorical question in my world, because we are already on our knees at the feet of our Savior. I think that we as Christians have lost our value because it has become a marketing tool. WWJD is not meant to be a flippant comment spouted by the world at large. It was meant to be a way of life and a concise score card for us to live by as the committed children of the Father. WE have trampled on ourselves. You even mentioned the bumper sticker issue. How many times have we, as Christians, violated the exact external symbols we carry and place around us daily? I have lost count of the number of cuss words and ill tempers I have seen in the cars with crosses hanging-and swinging wildly-from the mirrors those people are not seeing in! I love the song-I read it in her voice as she sang in my head-and think that we are a people who have learned to ignore the beauty and power of those words. Thank you for challenging me to dig deeper!

Theresa May 11, 2013 at 12:03 am

One could also ask, “Why not should Christians be trampled on?”. When one think about the sacrifices made between both God and Christ, one should become humble and ask self why not I. As a Christian one must remember living a life that honors God and His will does not come easy, just as it did not come easy for Christ. I’m not saying that it was easy for Christ to take all the abuse to allow us all a second chance, but he focused on the bigger picture rather than his own personal circumstance. However, as a Christian one can not lose focus on the bigger picture. A Christian must know their purpose, stay focused and prioritize. Know one’s ultimate purpose which is to honor and share the will of God. When things are not right it is important to know that they are wrong and hold firm to the will of God, however one must still respect the person. This is not saying that you agree with the action. God gives us unlimited grace just as we should give to others. While praying, ask God to strengthen you through your actions and intentions by demonstrating his will and exhibiting love to all. This post reminds one of the importance of grace, prayer and love. As Christians one must not get defeated because of a challenge, but look to God for strength because with Him ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. Not to say that we have to go against His will, but we listen, seek and pray for Him to step in where we are weak. God has the ability to strengthen where one is weak.

Matt Read May 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

First of all – great article Dr. Wood. I really enjoyed reading it and reflecting on my walk with the Lord. Even though you filled this article with a lot of deep thought and emotion, I felt a sense of personal challenge and reflection which always helps me indulge that much more. I thank you for that.

When a problem arises, I know many people, including myself, ask other people their suggestion and opinion on how to overcome the problem; often times forgetting the most important person they should be asking first and foremost, God himself. I appreciated when you said, “The answers to that question, at least for the understanding of Jesus followers, must come from Jesus; otherwise we’re following somebody else.” A lot of times I get caught following someone else, instead of my Father in Christ. It is articles like these that help me realize how important my relationship is with Him. Through prayer and due diligence, it is important that I turn to Him first in order to overcome adversity and separate myself from this worldy world that we live in.

Thanks again for your post and sharing your thoughts on this topic. I already feel like both of these classes I am taking with you this semester are going to be a blessing and I am going to learn so much from. Excited to move forward.

– Matt

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