by Jonny Atkinson
Scripture teaches two truths.
The first truth is that we have died with Christ, our life is hidden with Christ in God and will not again be revealed until the Christ returns (Col 3:3-4), Therefore we shouldn’t live like we are alive in this world (Col 2:20) but rather live as those who belong to a kingdom “not of this world” (Jn 18:36), those with our citizenship in heaven (Phil 3:20).
The second truth is that, Christians are the salt and light of the world. Salt and light of this present world which is passing away (Matt 5:13-16).
History has shown that the Judeo-Christian worldview and morality system has had a transformative role in this world. Christians have been at the forefront of starting schools, hospitals, orphanages, and ending slavery (see How Christianity Changes the World by Alvin Schmidt). Think of William Carey who not only preached the gospel in India but transformed the society through teaching science, creating dictionaries, and ending widow-burning, among other things.
These two truths can be summarized as we are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:14-16).
How Then Should We Live?
The first truth teaches us that man can do nothing to us (Heb 13:6, Matt 10:28), we can lose nothing as our eternal inheritance is guarded in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:5) and so we should live boldly and fearlessly.
The second truth teaches us how we are to live in this world which Scripture summarizes as denying ourselves (Mk 8:34–38) and loving others (Gal 6:10) within our various roles as husband/wife, father/mother, son/daughter, employer/employee, etc.
What is vitally important about this second point, is that Scripture nowhere guarantees that our salty lives will result in cultural change, at least not in our immediate sphere in our lifetime. The Bible does guarantee, however, that faithful Christian living will attract persecution (2 Timothy 3:12, Acts 14:22, John 15:20, 1 Thessalonians 3:3).
When Persecution Increases
Often, Christians debate whether faithfulness will change culture or bring persecution. The problem with such debates is that, not only are such scenarios not mutually exclusive, but we are dealing with different spheres of time and location. Since Christ’s ascension, have the cultures of the world improved where the gospel has gone? I think it’d be hard to argue against such a view of the last 20 centuries (again, see How Christianity Changes the World by Alvin Schmidt). However, at multiple times (often long times) and in multiple places, cultures have receded and decayed and Christians have been sorely oppressed, looking like they are “losing.”
Are We Losing the Fight?
I would submit that whether or not a culture is receptive or hostile to the gospel is no thermometer on the faithfulness of the church.
The reason this is important is that many Christians today are looking at the institutions around them abandoning their Christian heritage and wondering what to do. Of course, this is lamentable, any Christian would prefer the institutions within their society to embrace a Christian worldview.
But what should we do? Does it indicate something the church needs to repent of? Have we been unfaithful? Have we been doing something wrong? Do we need to “fight” to keep such institutions? Are we losing the fight?
The church should always be reflective and willing to repent of her errors. And, if there is ground to maintain or gain within our institutions for truth, we ought to use our current civilian rights to “fight,” so to speak. But, we ought not to be rattled, fearful, or speak of “losing a battle” if any ground is “lost” in this world. Any cultural “battle” we engage in ought to be put within the larger perspective and fought from a position of peace, security, love, and the confidence of eternal victory.
Unable to Lose
The whole tenor of the New Testament is one of victory. It is a victory that follows in the victory of Christ, namely a victory that comes through suffering, but a victory nonetheless. A sure victory. One that is not under threat. I can’t even find a hint of a sentiment along the lines of “unless we do X and do so very quickly, Y will be lost forever.” Quite the contrary.
What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall the teachings of sexual immorality within our public schools? Shall the legalization of ungodly unions? Shall the attempt to redefine gender? No. In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Rom 8:37)
What if they take away our tax exemption status? Imprison us for preaching biblical truth? The Word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2:9)
What if some slander us, malign us and the gospel, seeking to afflict us (Phil 1:17)? We rejoice because the gospel is being proclaimed even in pretense! (Phil 1:18)
What if we are chased out of every city we go into with threats of stoning and death (see Acts)? We describe that as the gospel bearing fruit and growing in the whole word (Col 1:6).
Christian, put your lament over the circumstances in this world into perspective with the unstoppable, undefeatable victory you have been gifted to participate in the world to come. And from that place of secure victory, continue living in this world boldly, confidently, unshakably, and lovingly, for Jesus is unable to lose a thing. Jesus Christ keeps you whether the culture improves or takes your life, and He will carry you all the way home.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)