For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. Romans 1:16
This is a topic that has been increasingly on the top of my mind. The term relevant has a couple of definitions, but the one I am using it for is the definition of “having social relevance” or relating to a subject in an appropriate way. For the past two millennia, Christians have sought to be relevant in their culture – to have an impact on the culture around them. But in this time and place, the question is how can a Christian be relevant in an increasingly hostile culture? In America, the very institutions that were designed to protect freedom of religion and freedom of speech – the courts – have now been turned against Christians in an alarming way. This is a deeply disturbing trend and one which every leader or mentor needs to examine to come up with answers, because your mentees and followers are looking for solutions to this. As Eric Metaxis said, we are living in a world that is being held hostage by relativism. (https://home.isi.org/dictatorship-relativism-comes-campus) Relativism, at its essence, denies that there is any truth, much less any absolute Truth with a capital “T”.
Metaxis provides an illustration which is interesting: “If you assert as a biological fact if you had an x and a y chromosome and you have male sexual organs, you are not a woman, you will be accused of being a hater and on the wrong side of history.” Or, take abortions where even the staunchest pro-abortionist acknowledge that a fetus is a human being. Yet that doesn’t stop a woman in America, who has the right to “choose” what she wants to do with her own body, from having an abortion in late-term (7th through 9th month of pregnancy) where the baby’s chance of survival is medically possible today.
This absurdity was taken to a new level in logic when recently Gloria Steinem, in delivering the key address at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, recently said: “Forced childbirth is the single biggest cause of global warming.” (http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/09/21/gloria-steinem-keynotes-planned-parenthood-fundraiser-forced-childbirth-single-biggest-cause-global-warming/). Yes, you read that right. She’s effectively justifying killing babies because it aids in holding down the world’s population which, she believes, has an impact on global warming. You might want to let that logic sink in. Killing unborn babies is justified as means of population control which, in turn, will save the planet from adverse climate change. That’s basically what she is saying. Moral right and wrong as we know it is being replaced by relativism – in this case, justifying murder to prevent climate change.
As a lawyer who practiced law for 45 years, I have watched these legal trends of the past couple of years with a great deal of trepidation and concern. Even our Supreme Court has entered the fray with its 2015 legal decision that effectively sanctioned same-sex marriages using an analysis which, from my standpoint, is twisted and contorted. Justice Thomas dissented in the case stating that the decision “is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the [Christian] principles upon which our Nation was built.” I agree with him.
With that as a backdrop, I wonder what Christianity in the west will look like over the next 10 to 20 years if these trends continue. As some have predicted, our voice in the marketplace is being repressed, marginalized, scorned and publicly derided. This has all happened within a short time, and really is breathtaking and almost unthinkable. A candidate for the President of the United States declared that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases has to be changed”. In other words, our leaders decree that politics trumps religious liberty and that two thousand years of Christian influence on culture is now passé.
I cannot come up with an easy fix nor a formula for a Christian to remain relevant to this kind of “soft” persecution. By soft, I mean that it is unlike physical persecution faced by Christians in the middle east, Africa and elsewhere who have been killed, tortured, beheaded, raped or women and children enslaved for their beliefs. I am not optimistic that things will get better quickly, although God has created revivals in the past, and certainly can do it again. What it does mean is that we might have to look to Daniel who persevered and prospered while in a foreign land which was entirely contrary to his beliefs. We need to read the Book of Daniel to see how he survived, and even thrived, in such a hostile environment, without ever sacrificing or altering his beliefs.
Often, the solution for the future resides in the past. What did Jesus do when dealing with persecution and the religious elite who were against him because He represented a threat to the status quo? Well, He invested in a few good men – first the 12, and then later the 70. He built into them Biblical character, values and backbone which they, in turn, passed on to others. He changed the world by starting with a few. We can do the same.
My challenge is a difficult one. I don’t know the answers, but I do know that we have to educate ourselves to these new threats to our beliefs and find ways to be relevant. Our message to a dying world is universal, and we have to pray for ways to not only make Christianity survive during these times, but prosper in the coming decades. The next generation has grown up in this secular environment and, while they don’t trust the church as an institution, they are open to seeking a spiritual component to their life. That’s the opportunity of a mentor – to be relevant to the next generation by investing in their lives. So if you are looking for a small step to take, develop a relationship with a millennial or someone in the next generation. They will be our leaders of tomorrow. That’s what Jesus did. Follow Him. You can begin that journey now
FURTHER STUDY: A book that should be required reading for all in the West is It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, by Mary Eberstadt. The book documents the trends that have led to the culture to a post Christian worldview. World Magazine, while a subscription publication, has a robust website which has commentary on trends affecting Christians. https://world.wng.org. Finally, www.breakpoint.org contains commentary and blogs on issues affecting Christianity.
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WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman’s song You Never Let Go which reminds us that God will never abandon us even in times of trouble. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM14VZVu0og