You’ve heard me and John Stonestreet refer to our culture as being “post-Christian.” It’s a shorthand way of noting the decreasing influence of Christian ideas and values on cultural norms, attitudes, and habits.
Obviously, this is far from a good thing. But it’s in this post-Christian culture that the Church can and must be what her Lord called her to be: a sign of contradiction.
The phrase comes from Luke’s Gospel. After Jesus is presented in the Temple, Simeon holds the One he has waited his entire life to see. He proclaims Jesus to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel,” and then gives Mary the news that will “pierce her heart”: Her son will be a “sign that will be opposed” or “contradicted.” Whichever word you prefer, the meaning is the same: faithfulness to God’s call and His truth on our part will be met with opposition.
It could hardly be otherwise. As Benedict XVI wrote in his book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, “man’s ‘contradiction’ of God runs all the way through history.” We live in a time when “God himself is constantly regarded as a limitation placed upon our freedom that must be set aside if man is ever to be completely himself.”
God is love, but this love “can be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves.”
This hatred of the love that redeems sent Jesus to the cross. And it's why we ourselves should expect to be rejected. By the way, we in the West should count our blessings. A Pew Forum study estimates that Christians are actively persecuted in 131 of the world’s 197 countries. Approximately 100,000 are murdered every year because of their faith.
So what should be our response? Well for starters, how about no whining. As I just told you, at the very least, Scripture warns us to expect opposition and rejection. When faced with opposition and hostility, our principle response should be to ensure that we are being opposed for the right reasons. If people are to speak ill of us, they should do so because our message and our lives are inescapable reminders of what it means to transcend ourselves and live as if there were something greater than our own desires.
One obvious example is our unequivocal support, in word and deed, of the sanctity of human life and marriage. I say “word and deed,” because we Christians are often better at demonstrating what we're against than articulating and modeling a Christian alternative of what it means to be truly human. As Chuck Colson might say, we’re good at opposing, we’ve got to be better at proposing.
Another, unfortunately less-obvious example is being champions of the weak, oppressed and marginalized. For instance, the American criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform. Offenders and their families should have no better friends and advocates than the people of God. Which is precisely why Chuck founded Prison Fellowship — to bring the love of Christ to prisoners and their families — and Justice Fellowship — to bring biblically based reforms to the justice system.
So instead of being just another aggrieved interest group, let’s pray God will give us grace to become those signs of contradiction. Instead of complaining when people speak ill of us, we should recall Jesus’s words in Matthew 5, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”
Visit Prison Fellowship and Justice Fellowship online!
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: March 11, 2013