There are a lot of things that Christians see which indicate to them that we live in a culture which is hostile to Christianity. If you don’t think this is the case, I’m probably not going to convince you of that. If you do think this is the case, I don’t need to list reasons why our culture can be seen that way. It should be sufficient to say that we live in a world in which every aspect is affected by sin, and so by definition is in rebellion against God.
But it is Christian responses to this which I was thinking about this morning.
A number of people I come across seem very angry about this. They are angry because they feel their rights or their freedoms are being eroded, or angry that the culture is changing. And fair enough. No-one likes their stuff being taken away, whatever that stuff might be. Sometimes there is a bit of sorrow, a lament, at what they feel is passing away. Sadness at the opportunities Christians might not have, and the difficulty in doing our work as Christians who are being faithful to Jesus – whether that is our individual work in whatever career or job we have, or the work of the church as a whole.
But I’m not sure I often detect a sense of sorrow for others. A sorrow for ourselves, yes. But not for others.
This struck me most clearly as I was reading Luke 23:26-31.
Jesus is being taken to be crucified, and there are many mourning for him.
He turns to them, and in verse 28, says “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children. For the time will come when you will say ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “fall on us!” and to the hills “Cover us!”1 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Jesus is saying that a rejection of him (and by extension, a hostility to the people who follow Jesus) is a disaster for all the people who don’t know him and follow him. It is a sign that destruction is coming, judgement is on the way, and people should mourn for those who will be lost.
This sadness for the lost is what I think we often miss, in a country like Australia. Politically, and culturally, we are taught to focus on ourselves. On our rights, our freedoms, our stuff.
But the Bible tells us that when we follow Jesus, we have everything we need, and it can never be taken away from us. Ephesians 2:4-7 says
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Those who follow Jesus have been saved from God’s judgement, will be raised up with Jesus into the presence of God, to receive the incomparable riches of God’s grace. We already have everything we could ever need or want. And that can never be taken away.
So what does it matter to Christians if we have ‘stuff’ taken away from us in this life (even our lives)? That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about what we have, or about justice. But it means we are already secure, and all there is for us to mourn is those who don’t have the assurance that God gives us in Jesus.
This lack of focus on the fact we have already won (triumphant through Jesus’ triumph and resurrection) leads people to be mad at other people, instead of sorrowful for those who don’t have hope.
Makes me reflect on my attitude, my hope, and the way I view things. What about you?
1 Jesus is quoting this bit about the mountains and hills from Hosea 10:8.