Monday, December 09, 2013


Non-Christians are pretty impatient with the whiny complaints of persecution that many American Christians emit when they don't get their way in public policy.  As I've said many times before, the problem of American Christians originates in the quest of settlers 400 years ago to live godly without being persecuted, in the face of what Paul rightly wrote to Timothy: anyone who wishes to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  From that founding folly, American Christians have sought for 400 years by a combination of bullying and sucking up - conforming to the American world while trying to conform it to ourselves - to eliminate any real conflict between our faith and the world, hoping in this way to live godly and at the same time not be persecuted for it.   This can never be.

If we mean to follow Jesus, we will indeed suffer persecution, just as Paul wrote.  And the first of these persecutors is none other than ourselves, our own flesh.

On one level, obviously, God likes flesh and the material world.  He made it and said it was very good.  However, it was meant from the beginning to be subdued to God's purpose, along with the rest of the earth (Genesis 2), and that would have to be done.  We are of the earth, and our flesh is constituted to pursue pleasure, to avoid pain, and to avoid needless effort.  That's all good as far as it goes, but it's designed to work right only when we realize that our provision comes from God who made us, and that only in Him will these goals actually be met.  Of itself, my hungry belly does not know that man lives by every word from God's mouth, and not by bread only.

My flesh on its own will devise various strategies to meet its goals, and they all amount to getting it from around me, including your hide, rather than looking up to God for my needs.  Allowed its needs in its own way, my flesh will pursue its own destruction, and yours too - all we like sheep have gone astray.  It will not listen to reason. God has to intervene, and the life of God that results when he does will provoke the opposition of my appetites.  I am regularly persecuted by myself.  Paul write of this in Romans 7; it's every Christian's problem, all the time.

We avoid that persecution by making a deal - indulging our appetites while keeping our religiosity and taking the fight out there which we're not up to waging where it needs to be.  So Jesus said, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?"  It's not a bad question.  Any Christian ought to be giving it a lot of thought, and having a word with God about it.

When we're not dealing with ourselves, we'll displace our strife to those outside.  Saul wouldn't deny himself and obey God, so he compensated by murdering the Gibeonites.  In the same way, American Christians aren't about to do what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, so they get up a crusade against the Muslims, and before that the Communists - and always against various non-Christians in the US.  And when these push back against this aggression, it's not persecution!

Here's the obvious: if we are not following Jesus, because we want to indulge ourselves, nobody can persecute us for living godly in Jesus Christ, because we're not doing it.  Only those who are living godly in Christ Jesus get persecuted for it, and when those people are persecuted they don't whine about it.  They rejoice that they are found worthy to suffer shame for the Name (Acts 5:40-41).

Does the American Christoid know any of this?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found your blog by following a link from a comment you made elsewhere. This is radical stuff. It is a great thing to come across well-written positions that give voice to what was only rattling around in my head, unorganized, and leading me to wonder if I was simply over-critical. So thanks!

ps - Acts 5:41 is a perspective-shattering verse. It has never left my head after I discovered it several years ago.

2/13/2014 2:16 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Good to be reminded of Acts 5:41. As I reflect on it again, it strikes me that it is diagnostic: if htat isn't happening, what is my problem?

2/13/2014 3:32 PM  

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