Being a Christian Isn't Popular
It is sometimes easy to forget that America is a nation built on the foundation of Christian faith. I remember reciting the pledge of America every morning in class: " I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Although this pledge does not explicitly refer to the Christian God, it is common knowledge that a significant majority of Americans identify as Christian. In 2015, 75% of polled Americans self-identified as Christian (although this number is on the decrease). To further make my point, our nation's motto--installed by President Eisenhower in 1956--is "In God We Trust."
In my previous post, I've touched on the subject of "lukewarmness." A lukewarm Christian is one who is neither hot, nor cold--or is lacking in any fervor or passion in faith. In scripture, God repeatedly warns against falling into the trap of lukewarmness, and even stresses through Peter, that:
"If indeed they have escaped the corruption of the world through their knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, only to be entangled and overcome by it again, their final condition is worse than it was at first. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and turned away from the holy commandment passed on to them." (2 Peter 2:21)
This verse warns that a Christian who falls away from the faith is better off never to have heard the gospel message in the first place. A similar sentiment is echoed in Luke:
"But the one who unknowingly does things worthy of punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from him who has been entrusted with much, even more will be demanded." (Luke 12:48)
A true believer recognizes that salvation is freely given by God, and is awed that God would bestow incredible grace without any merit. Salvation cannot be earned, and because of this, the believer is all the more indebted to God the Father and Jesus for having been rescued from eternity apart from Him. However, with salvation also comes responsibility.
A few months ago, I was on a Senior trip to Israel with my best friend Alice, when we sat next to a very kind Spanish gray-haired lady at lunchtime on a bus tour. When she told us that she was a Christian, I asked, "Do you work in ministry?" She responded, to my surprise, "Well of course, aren't all Christians called to ministry?" Her words struck a cord with me, because I had never thought about it in that way. But it is true, as Christians--recipients of a gift we could never repay in a million lifetimes--we are so overcome with love and gratitude that we should gladly follow Jesus into the spiritual battleground of ministry.
However, as the verse in 2 Peter warns, it is possible for Christians to believe and fall away from God, only to spend eternity apart from Him. This contradicts the very popular Christian notion that--once saved, you are always saved. However, the Bible clearly implies a level of personal responsibility on the part of the believer to hold fast to the faith and to participate in ministry.
What I want to touch on in this post is that, as Christians, we must hold tightly to our beliefs and root ourselves in scripture so as to not be led astray by popular culture--even the culture that has snaked its way into our churches.
Ever since I got saved around a year and a half ago, my eyes have become unblinded to the way in which Christianity is fundamentally contrary to popular culture in our world today. I can list just a few subjects of debate that are heavily covered by the media: LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and physician aid-in-dying. Although on one hand, it saddens me that the focus of religious debate has become reduced to a ridiculous sideshow of arguing over what is Christianity says about these issues; it equally saddens me at how many nominal, or lukewarm, Christians have renounced or compromised their faith by agreeing with secular perspectives on these issues.
I do not mean to say that these issues are not important--they are VERY important and every Christian should dig deeper into theology to find answers to these problems. At the core of the debate--which I want to stress--is that all sin is sin to God--whether that is homosexual activity, murder, or telling a white lie. Therefore, every sinner--no matter which sin they commit--is welcomed into God's kingdom if he or she accepts Christ. It is hypocritical for self-labeled Christians to step out and say that gay people are any less worthy of the gospel than themselves. In fact, Christians should be the first to welcome gay people with open arms, loving on them the way that God loves them unconditionally, and inviting them to wrestle with belief just like anyone else.
With regards to these issues, I sometimes hear Christians say, "Well, the Bible is outdated and we shouldn't take it so seriously today." They stress that because the Bible was written thousands of years ago, its words do not apply to modern times. If that were the case, why do we even bother reading it? Why do we preach from it on Sundays? Why do we only take out the bits we like and are nice to hear, and ignore the rest?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 states:
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Notice that this verse states that, "all scripture," not "some" or "popular" scripture, is God-breathed and absolutely relevant to today. As Christians, we must recognize that if we are not following all of scripture, then we might as well not call ourselves Christian.
In Matthew, Jesus directly says to his followers (us):
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26)
Why did Jesus say we must "lose our lives" for him in order to save our souls? I believe there are many reasons for this--but one of them is that we must live in obedience to him--even when the world tells us not to (or if "Christians" tell us to compromise)--if we are to truly be his disciples.
I get asked a lot of tough questions by my non-Christian friends--"Why does the Bible assign gender roles to men and women--isn't that sexist?" or "Why do you only want to date/marry a Christian--isn't that close-minded?" I understand why they ask these questions, and I welcome these questions. I usually respond directly and honestly, citing scripture and tenets of the Christian faith. But these questions also remind me that--to the world, our beliefs make absolutely no sense.
To the world, sexual purity and gender roles are completely thrown out of the window in the name of "individuality" and "freedom." Yet, as we see in our world today, denying these biblical truths only leads to more sin and disappointment. Ironically, they lead to a life of enslavement to sexual addictions and identity issues, rather than true "freedom."
As Christians, we are meant to live out God's original design to the world. This means being obedient to God and denying our fleshly and sinful impulses. After all, as our Creator, doesn't He know us best and know what is best for us? Some examples of living out God's design are: displaying purity, obedience to God, humility, generosity, and most importantly, love--even when it means losing popularity and acceptance in society.
In Psalms, David says this about God's laws:
The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
To be honest, I have been putting off writing my blog posts for the past few weeks because I was worried about what people would think of me, or how well received my blog would be. I have written and discarded three drafts on subjects that I felt convicted to write about but was worried about being too "controversial." But I thank God for giving me the boldness to write about this, because it is not of my own power but by His. I hope that this message is encouraging to you, and that you feel similarly emboldened by it to live out your faith even if it makes you unpopular to the world around us.