It can’t have escaped your notice that Christians are going through a bit of a tough time at the moment.
To clarify, I’m not talking about hardline persecution, where Christians are being killed or tortured or imprisoned for our faith – that’s happening on a huge scale in Africa, South America, the Middle East, Asia, South East Asia.
But in Europe, North America and Australasia we don’t really have that. In those parts of the world, opposition to Christianity is boiling over into anarchy and violence, but over here we’re not there yet. We just have this kind of low-level simmering angst. An opposition to Christianity being public, and an opposition to Christianity being any way involved in political decision-making, or being given air time or column inches by the media.
For the most part, we’re living in societies that want Christianity to just disappear. And there are a lot of people out there working very hard to make that happen.
In our naivety, believing that a so-called ‘Christian nation’ would never marginalise the religion that is the foundation of all its principles and values, we have unwittingly stumbled into a world of political correctness, where to offend someone is near outlawed.
The ideal is admirable to a point, but it now threatens religious freedom. How quickly has banning crude, insulting words related to race or ethnicity become a path to: “I’m offended by the words your book uses on one issue, so you should not be allowed to use it as a guide or frame of reference on any issue”?
And so there has been a retreat of Christians from public life. Politicians have been known to say such things as: “I am a Christian, but I do not let that affect the way I do my job, or influence my policies.”
More than that, though. Your common or garden Christian believers from all walks of life are being led to believe that Christianity should be kept to the confines of the church or the home.
The default position of most unbelievers seems to be: “Your faith is fine – each to their own and all – but it’s not for me, so keep it out of my face”. That’s disappointing enough in itself, but many Christians have bought into this way of thinking too. “Perhaps it is just a private thing that comforts me. I’m glad I have my faith, but those people are right too, I shouldn’t be offending anyone or making anyone feel uncomfortable.”
It is a sickness that has spread in our post-modern culture, and it has seeped into churches and pulpits. It is that way of thinking that says: “Your opinion is fine, and so is mine, and everyone is right, and everyone is equally entitled to believe they are right. You can believe whatever you want to believe so long as it doesn’t offend me.”
But that is not how it is supposed to be. There is absolute truth, whether that is convenient for people or not. As Christians we have been enlightened and know the truth, we have a duty to stand up for what is right.
In the Bible we have a guide, explaining right from wrong, and when we follow the teachings of scripture, we find ourselves living in a far better world than the one that has been constructed around us by sinners and unbelievers – including by ourselves in our sinful ways.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Salt is a preservative. It stops things from going bad. In the same way, we have responsibilities to stop this world from “going bad” by standing up for what we know to be good and true and holy.
Light exposes darkness. Wherever light is, darkness flees. That’s the same with us, too. We have Christ’s light within us, and we need to show that to everyone. We need to be beacons of whatever is good and right, and expose darkness wherever we see it.
We know right from wrong, and unless we’re bold enough to speak out and let that be known, others around us will not know the reality of their sin, and so will not understand their need for a saviour.
We must be in the world, but not of the world. We are commissioned to make disciples, and we cannot do that if we do not expose people to their sin. If we don’t speak out against sin, we are endorsing it. If we do that, we have lost are saltiness, we have hidden our light under a basket. If we do that, we will have done exactly what Jesus has instructed us not to do.
Let’s be salt and light.
Let’s stand up and make God’s love known to the world.