Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blame and Suffering

Christians are increasingly being marginalized in an attempt to silence the truth of man’s sinfulness and need of the Savior.  How do I know that this is the reason?  First, though I am a sinner saved by grace, my defensive reaction when confronted belies a knowledge to the truth; and second, the general public is surprised that Christians would not at least “live and let live.” while the most virulent attacks come from those who are most aggressive in the promotion of their personal sins.  The apostle Peter warned that the world would be surprised that we do not join in with the same level of “sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1 Pet 4:3-4) for which we are maligned.

We should not be surprised that simply expressing opinions on matters of morality brings out the worst.  The apostle Paul tells us that we are: “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor 2:15-16).  Christ-likeness is exuded from the Holy Spirit working through in our activities as ambassadors for Christ.  In a sense, Christians have “grown up” from childish and selfish longing and now “ live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Pet 4:2).

In order to increase the intensity level of the attack, unbelievers have blamed Christians for any number of societal ills.  Over the centuries, the Church has been accused of inciting political upheaval, economic decline, flood, drought, famine, infestation, pestilence, war, and even climate change.  Fourth-century apologist Arnobius of Sicca relates these very arguments from his day: “But pestilences,” say my opponents, “and droughts, wars, famines, locusts, mice, and hailstones, and other hurtful things, by which the property of men is assailed...are brought upon us” (The Case Against the Pagans, I.3).  Who knew we yielded such influence?  Today, the attack is often more nuanced, though no less intentional.  So-called global warming can be considered an indirect assault since the the blame is placed on industrialized nations wherein Christianity has had the greatest influence and created an atmosphere of mankind operating freely for mutual benefit, while acknowledging the necessity of self-imposed biblical moral strictures.

Battles involving Al Qaeda and Islamic State have renewed writers to postulate once again that religion is the cause of war, rather than looking deeper—and Christianity gets blamed.  Arnobius has already retorted, “Wait a minute.  Things are more stable because of us.”
Although you allege that those wars which you speak of were excited through hatred of our religion, it would not be difficult to prove, that after the name of Christ was heard in the world, not only were they not increased, but they were even in great measure diminished by the restraining of furious passions.  For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be repaid with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another, an ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature.
The Case Against the Pagans, I.6

He concludes that if all would turn from their “pride and arrogance of enlightenment” and adhere to God's admonitions life would be more tranquil between nations.  Tertullian, writing to Roman authorities one hundred years prior, agreed and pointed to the true culprit—sinful man:
[A]s the result of their willing ignorance of the Teacher of righteousness, the Judge and Avenger of sin, all vices and crimes grew and flourished.  But had men sought, they would have come to know the glorious object of their seeking; and knowledge would have produced obedience, and obedience would have found a gracious instead of an angry God.  They ought then to see that the very same God is angry with them now as in ancient times, before Christians were so much as spoken of.  It was His blessings they enjoyed—created before they made any of their deities: and why can they not take it in, that their evils come from the Being whose goodness they have failed to recognize?  They suffer at the hands of Him to whom they have been ungrateful.  And, for all that is said, if we compare the calamities of former times, they fall on us more lightly now, since God gave Christians to the world; for from that time virtue put some restraint on the world’s wickedness, and men began to pray for the averting of God’s wrath.
Apology, 40

Fallen people look for any excuse to shift blame for their conduct, thinking that if they would be left alone, everything would work out.  This cannot be either at an individual or societal level.  This world is worsening in the downward slide, and Christians receive both the blame and unjust punishment for pointing out the obvious.  And just as the apostles were promised by Jesus in the Upper Room that they would be killed as an act of divine service (John 16:2), so believers in this country will feel an increasing pressure and attack.

We are at enmity with God because of our sin nature, yet peace and contentment are found in a Savior who willing died to redeem and reconcile us.  In the face of affliction, He is our rest and solace.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  (1 Pet 4:12-14)
Yes, we will assuredly suffer, but we can assuredly rest in our Lord.

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The unbeliever must deny God and attack His people or else they'd have to confront their own evil and sin; they'd have to acknowledge that they will be held accountable.