Where do we get our leadership models from? I can’t help wondering how much we import from our culture. And the current model we may be in danger of copying is that of a certain ‘Special One’. He’s the master at creating a bunker mentality, nobody loves us or even likes us, it’s us against the world, every one is out to get us. So hunker down, train harder and go out and prove them wrong.
There are certain social trends that mean many Christian are worried about loss of freedoms that we have enjoyed in the UK for a long time. There are threats to our freedoms in the proposal to ban gay conversion if it goes to the extreme of banning prayer and preaching and teaching what Jesus preached and taught. But there are also horrifically abusive practices that need to be made illegal and have no part in a church that claims to represent Jesus.
The apology of Kier Starmer today for visiting a Church and praising their work as a vaccination centre because they hold to Biblical teaching on sexuality is another example that is causing many to develop a persecution complex. And my worry is that many Christians and churches are taking a leaf out of the ‘Special Ones’ book and developing a persecution complex. We’d do better to look to Jesus’ words the end of the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you”
Or read Acts 4 and the Apostles and Early Churches response to persecution, or turn to 1 Peter 2v11-12: “Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you are evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.” Jesus and Peter both encourage disciples to engage with a hostile culture, to serve and love and live out righteousness even when persecuted or slandered. That is a far cry from much of the reaction I fear we are seeing to current events.
It is right to contact our MP’s about our concerns. It is good for us to pray about these things and bring our fears to God. But persecution and opposition are the global and historical norm for Christians and churches. Even in the history of the UK we live in an unusually persecution free period of Church History. Have we lost our edge? Have decades of acceptance and comfort and protection dulled us so that we cannot comprehend of what church and following Jesus would look like without our privileges and rights?
Why are we surprised that the world and it’s culture increasingly view us as the bad guys? Yes a generation ago we were the good guys – though I wonder if it was more in the way the people of Jesus day viewed the Pharisees as good guys than we think. But Christianity is a call to follow Jesus not the culture. It’s a call to be a counter culture that is not hidden but is active in loving, serving and preaching the gospel no matter the temperature of the cultural waters in which it does so, no matter the slander that we face.
We must take our cue from Jesus. After all in claiming to be Christians we claim to follow Jesus so lets do so. Jesus did not fight for cultural acceptance from the elites and the powerful. He was uncompromising in his compassion and service and in his preaching and teaching even when it led to clashes with those in power and ultimately to the cross. And he left us a pattern to follow suffering then welcome into glory..