A polarization between good and evil is growing in America, as those who cry out for their right to be ungodly are faced by those who cry out to them that their ungodliness is bringing the judgment of God down on our nation.

Here’s a story that makes the point: A group of people shove off in a rowboat. When they get out to sea, one of them brings out a big drill and starts to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat under his seat. When the others realize that the boat is filling with water, they protest. The man says, “Hey, you can’t tell me what to do. It’s my seat!” Then he grabs his cell phone and calls the ACLU.

The enemy is patiently drilling holes in our boat, with a persistent, insidious attack on Christianity. Until recently it has consisted mostly of ridicule, especially in the hip and sassy media and entertainment arenas. To them “a Born-again” means a person who is out of the mainstream, politically incorrect, and intolerant.

Tolerance is the mantra of a permissive generation—tolerance of every life-style, philosophy and religion—so long as it isn’t Christianity.

TV sitcoms mock Christians and portray us as misfits, hypocrites and homophobes. We’re called arrogant and narrow-minded for saying Jesus is the only way to God, although we didn’t make that up—Jesus said it himself (see John 14:6), so we don’t need to apologize for it.

Columnists and TV personalities have compared us to Nazis, book-banners, witch-burners and the Taliban.

Talk show host Bill Maher has said, “Christians and others who are religious suffer from neurological disorders that stop people from thinking. . . . We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion… [Religion] justifies crazies.”

Rosie O’Donnell said on ABC’s The View, “Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have separation of church and state.”

We Christians in America have taken for granted our long season of relative peace. And as long as we go along with the tide of secularization, we can go on living that way. But as we resist in greater numbers the encroachments that corrupt our children and bring the displeasure of God on our nation, some persons (with and without bodies) will feel their backs up against the wall and will lash out at us.

Like tarantulas—they may be fun to watch, trundling around harmlessly. You can move in pretty close as long as you don’t menace them. Some people even keep them as pets. But get one pinned in a corner and it can jump straight up and nail you.

This is more than religious bigotry or ideological debate. Already some Christians have been threatened, arrested, jailed, sued, ostracized, fired, and kicked out of schools for exercising their freedom of conscience and religious expression. This clash of kingdoms is leading to more and more overt persecution. God’s enemies are trying hard through the political system to criminalize Christianity.

Persecution is foretold in the Bible, and has happened throughout history and throughout the world. Paul wrote, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (see 2 Timothy 3:1,12).

But Jesus said, “When the world hates you, remember that it hated me before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you… The people of the world will hate you because you belong to me, for they don’t know God who sent me” (John 15:18-19, 21 New Living Translation).

In another place he said, “What happiness there is when others hate you and exclude you and insult you and smear your name because you are mine! When that happens, rejoice! Yes, leap for joy! For you will have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. And you will be in good company—the ancient prophets were treated that way too!” (Luke 6:22-23 The Living Bible).

And what should be our response to our persecutors?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t get involved in foolish arguments which only upset people and make them angry. God’s people must not be quarrelsome; they must be gentle, patient teachers of those who are wrong. Be humble when you are trying to teach those who are mixed up concerning the truth” (2 Timothy 2:23-25a   TLB).

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 6:44 NKJV).

Only a working of grace in our hearts can make this happen. Our natural response to aggression is to lash back, but as the Holy Spirit weaves into us the character of Christ, we may find ourselves rejoicing as Jesus told us to, and praying, as he did, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Persecution will try and test us, and if we let it, will steel our resolve. God will give grace, and we will find we need each other more than ever.

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Mark D. Pendergrass

You had me at rowboat.

24 September 2016
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