In my first piece, I wrote that we are not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, by the way we think. We do that by holding to biblical truths, not cultural trends.
In my second piece, I discussed the results of that practice, the reality that those of us who believe in Christ will be outcasts in His name. As long as we adhere to truths that contradict the trends of the culture, as long as we refuse to conform to the world, we will be social exiles.
There are basically two responses to this.
We hold fast. Or we don’t.
We are already seeing the latter. We are seeing generations of people abandoning their faith, saying “If [insert cultural norm] is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”
It is no surprise to me that one of the greatest gifts God has given to his people—love—is also one of the primary things being used to divide us. The very definition of love is serving as a wedge, separating the true church from the culture, dividing the true believers from the false.
On the surface, this may seem like a good thing. From a certain perspective, we are moving toward an age where ideas of right and wrong, of truth and untruth, will be done away with. From the point of view of the culture, this may appear like we are on the verge of a new age of earthly utopia.
But below the surface something else is happening. What is right and what is wrong is splintering our world in a greater way than it ever has before. Our world is being divided into those who hold to the truth, and those who do not.
The Bible told us this would happen. And it’s happening.
In Luke 12:51, Christ speaks: “Do you think I came to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but division.”
These deep cultural issues will be so divisive that families and loved ones and friends will stand against one another. As Matthew 10: 36 says, “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
If we hold to biblical truths and standards of love and morality, we will be mocked and hated. We are already seeing that happen.
As St. Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad. You are not like us’.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. The persecution we face in America is nothing compared to what is going on in the rest of the world. Take into account what occurred in Sri Lanka this week, a coordinated attack on Christians worshipping on Easter Sunday. In other parts of the world, believers are being dragged into the streets, beaten, raped, and killed for their faith on a regular basis.
But mark my words.
Persecution is coming to the west.
It is only a matter of time. And it will serve as a reaper’s scythe, separating the wheat from the chaff.
While a cultural paradise may be on the rise, so too is the persecution of those who hold to the truth.
One of the darkest times for the church will very likely be when we have what appears to be a utopia on Earth.
The entire time Christ was in the midst of his earthly ministry, even his disciples believed he had come to establish an earthly kingdom, a utopia in this world. But Christ denied this. In Matthew 10: 34 He said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the Earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
When heaven comes to Earth, believers beware. It might look like a paradise to a certain group of people. But they won’t be God’s people, and it won’t be God’s kingdom.
Which brings me to a term that I have held in my heart for most of my life, what J.R.R. Tolkien called The Long Defeat.
We are never guaranteed victory on the battlefield of this world. We will keep losing ground in the battle of biblical righteousness versus cultural standards. We are fighting what will seem to be to many outside the faith—and to not just a few of those within it—a losing battle. And we will be called fools for doing so.
But that doesn’t mean we give up. We keep fighting.
Because the true victory is coming.
Not on this side of life. But in the life beyond. And though we go to our graves vanquished in the eyes of this world, we will go with the knowledge that we remained faithful until the end.
As Matthew 5:11 says, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
We fight on, even when there’s no hope in winning. Ours is an impossible, noble battle. A Long Defeat. But we will be victors and heirs in the eyes of the only One who truly matters.
In II Timothy 4:7, the author says “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”
And here we are once again, confronted with what the Bible doesn’t say.
It is profound to me that nowhere in that scripture does it mention winning.
It doesn’t say he won the good fight.
It doesn’t say he won the race.
It says he fought. It says he finished.
May we hold to the truth.
May we fight. May we finish. May we keep the faith.
Next week: Real Love Vs. False Love
Photo by Leighann Renee