Where'd we go? And the Missing Persecution

February 17, 2007

Dear Friends,

Many of you have written in wondering where we’ve all gone.  CJ has been either sick or travelling.  I have been either sick or travelling.  Ligon no doubt has been using his time well over at Ref21.  And the whole world knows about Al!  (Who, by God’s grace, is doing well.  I was with him last night.)  The best laid plans of mice and men go astray, as has our new year’s resolve about restructuring this blog.  SO, until we get our act together, I’ll resume posting my own thoughts, every now and then.

And now for the Missing Persecution.  I have been studying Daniel and preaching on it here in DC at CHBC.  Its main themes are obvious–God’s complete sovereignty over those worldly rulers that look so powerful and permanent.  A sub-theme, however, that has drawn my attention both in my own meditation and prayers, and in my sermons, is the theme that the saints will be ferociously attacked.  Ultimate victory is certainly promised.  But there is no thought of an optimistic postmillenial variety that I can find in the dreams and visions of the book.  Instead, there is suffering UNTIL God brings an end to it.  This fits not with themes of some modern motivational speakers (about having your best life now), but with the Bible–Jesus’ theme in his teachings & life of suffering then glory.

This theme, however, of the guarantee of persecution sits strangely with we western Christians today.  It is, quite simply, not our usual experience.  We conservative evangelicals tend to think that NOW is a struggling time for the church in the US and that the past was the glory period when we were at peace with the world, and the world with us.  Certainly there were some society-wide moral common assumptions, which functioned, in part, for the good of all.  But there was also persecution.

Maybe I need to remind myself of ways God has already given the church in America here persecution.  State persecutions of other protestants throughout the colonies in the 1600’s & 1700’s.  African-American Christians being treated as property, with all the chilling implications and entailments of that.  Giving churches over to heretical teachers.   (Can you imagine if many or even most of the otherwise conservative, orthodox churches began affirming homosexuality and performing same sex weddings?  And if they did so for centuries?  If that seems unimaginable to you, consider the prevailing attitudes to slavery for over 2 centuries in many of the otherwise most orthodox churches in America.)  Theological unbelief seizing hold of school after school.  There has certainly been persecution of the church here in North America.  And yet we seem unacquainted with even the thought of it today.  I fear that in my heart (if not my head) I think affluence is normal.  And then I read a book like Daniel, and I see prophesies of one "waging war against the saints and defeating them" for a season, the saints being handed over to one who is evil, the saints being oppressed, the power of the holy people being broken.  I could go on and on.

Oh God, prepare my soul, and those of my brothers and sisters to bring You glory in whatever way would most redound to Your glory.