I hate to say it but I’ve done my fair share of complaining about how Christians are treated in our secular culture. I’ve never honestly thought about it before now and I finally asked myself the question, should I really be surprised by how little tolerance is shown for Christians in today’s culture? When I asked myself this question, I started thinking of the many Biblical examples that illustrate that Christians have rarely been treated with tolerance over Christianity’s historical timeline. In fact, Jesus pointedly addressed how the world will treat Christians with hate and contempt in the following passages,
John 15:18-25 – 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 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. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Matthew 10:16-21 – 16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
After reading Jesus’ own words, should we be surprised at the intolerance that is often displayed towards Christians? The display of intolerance (and hate) should be a real expectation. This warning has existed for the last two millennia. Jesus’ direct quote, “That is why the world hates you”, should be a clear indicator that Christians (who are not of the world) will experience hatred simply because we are His followers. His comments weren’t merely speaking to ‘intolerance’, He was speaking to hatred; something much stronger. Intolerance is not the equivalent to hatred. For example, I am intolerant when it comes to my children being disrespectful towards me and others but I love my children nonetheless. Hatred can drive people to do unspeakably awful things that mere intolerance is incapable of. Hatred can fuel people to perform atrocious acts. The most horrid chapters of history have been the result of hatred.
Jesus is unambiguously explicit in outlining how Christians will be treated as they faithfully live out their relationship with Christ. As Christianity has grown over the centuries since the ministry of Jesus, we have all seen Christians being treated with contempt because of their faith in Jesus. In the United States, the amount of discrimination aimed towards the American church has increased in an attempt to immunize the nation from ANY influences that Christianity may have on the culture. Obviously this discrimination is insignificant by comparison to Christians being executed for their faith in other parts of the world. With that in mind, it’s the gradual rise of secularism in the Western world that can produce an unprecedented level of hostility towards Christianity that begins with events that seem insignificant in the public eye.
Fortunately, our faithful endurance through hatred’s turbulent storm will result in God’s generous blessing.
Luke 6:22 – 22 Blessed are you when people hate you when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
Modern Day Intolerance
As briefly mentioned above, there are many people in today’s modern society that are experiencing the shockwave of the secular elite against their Christian worldview. The opinions of Christians have been easily discarded as bigoted, intolerant, narrow-minded, unenlightened, archaic, and ignorant when they speak out against same-sex marriage, abortion, and evolution (in favor of creation). Unfortunately, the government’s handling of many of these matters has bled into our 1st Amendment rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Companies are being forced to provide services that directly violate their religious convictions, Christian ministers are being sued for not performing same-sex marriages, Christian entrepreneurs are being sued for not providing their services for same-sex marriage ceremonies, Christian businesses are being forced to provide abortion inducing drugs to their employees, etc… These are a few of the types of actions being taken against Christians and their businesses when they don’t adhere to the progressively secularist agenda.
There are many documented cases where the government has specifically targeted conservative Christians who remain dedicated to living a life for Christ. I am providing a minute sampling that may help with understanding the types of discrimination that is being used against the Christian culture that may help us to better prepare ourselves in combating it. In addition to providing a brief description of the discrimination, I’m linking the description with a URL of the lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom is filing to protect the religious freedom of their client or a news article that describes the situation in more detail:
- A senior in high school being told by school authorities that they cannot pray during their free periods during school
- Pastors being threatened by the local law enforcement authorities for refusing to perform same-sex weddings
- Arkansas State University was forced to remove a cross on their football helmets for fear of being sued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation
- A Florida ministry was denied food from the USDA because they had portraits of Jesus, the Ten Commandments, and a banner that said “Jesus is Lord” in their office along with distributing Bibles to the poor
- The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and their international humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse was targeted by the IRS in 2010 along with many other politically conservative and Christian organizations
With this information in mind, what should be our long-term approach to matters of discrimination? Below is a piece of scripture that sets the groundwork for how we should respond to those who ‘mistreat’ Christians…
Luke 6:27-36 – 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
However, should Christians be spineless doormats who passively allow their principles to be trampled on and resign to the sidelines? A message of Christian passivity is not communicated in the Bible…
1 Peter 3:14 – 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
Ephesians 6:10-20 – 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Loving our enemies is not the equivalent to allowing them to run us into the ground without a stand. We don’t have to be vengeful in the way that we stand for our Christian beliefs. In fact, while we take a stand we are called to do so ‘lovingly’ yet ‘firm’. I’m afraid that both of these qualities have largely been overlooked and/or undervalued by modern day Christians. I’ve observed many Christians ungraciously fight against their opponents and I’ve also seen how Christian have allowed their principles to be trampled over in passive submission to the secular status quo. Neither one of these are options should be entertained under a Christian worldview. A holistic Biblical approach should be taken by all committed Christians. The list above is a very small sampling of the kinds of discrimination that Christians are experiencing. This is certainly NOT exhaustive nor is it illustrative of the worst types of discrimination that Christians are experiencing internationally.
Regardless of severity, we must understand that being a Christian will never be easy from a cultural standpoint. Jesus told us in advance of these hardships and was completely transparent of the difficulties that will arise out of being His followers. When looking at this life in an eternal perspective, we realize that the hardships of our lifetime for being Christ followers last no longer than a blink of an eye. Once that blink is over, we’ll see how important our time on earth was and how the rewards of our obedience will be much greater than any hardship we would have ever faced during this earthly lifetime.