The United States in the 50s and 60s might have seemed to be more or less Christian, but it was anything but. And one radical Christian who knew all about this much earlier on than most other Christians was Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984). He knew everything was not right in America and the West, and he sought to give a warning when most believers were asleep at the wheel. In one of the first books that he wrote, The God Who Is There (IVP, 1968), he was sounding the alarm on such matters. Many believers back then would have been left scratching their heads upon reading those words. ‘Antagonism? Being a warrior? What is he going on about?’ They had no idea that underneath the veneer of religion and acceptability, the US and the West were quickly becoming rotting corpses that were in desperate need of renewal and rebirth.
When we are repeatedly told about something, or warned about something, especially from those in the know and with authority, then we had better stand up and take notice. When the Bible tells us that we can expect stiff resistance and enmity as we seek to represent Christ to a lost and needy world, we need to take those warnings seriously.
Jesus of course spoke of this often. In John 16:33 for example we find these words of his: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Or as he said in John 15:19–20: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they keep my word, they will also keep yours.”
Peter too spoke about this. In 1 Peter 4:12–14 we read: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Obviously Paul also warned about this. As we find in 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Or as he mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
Pastor Jack Hibbs said this about that last passage: “Naive is the Christian who discounts their adversaries while they are working to further His kingdom. We should expect adversaries and the trouble they cause whenever a door for ministry opens. According to this passage, those laboring for the gospel are not exempt from assaults of the ungodly.”
Indeed, given these and so many other passages telling us the same thing, it should never come as a surprise to believers if they find themselves hated, opposed, rejected and ostracised as they seek to do the work of the Kingdom. Yet incredibly, some believers today – at least in the West – still do not get it.
The truth is, they have lived so comfortably in the world, and have done so little to impact it for Christ and the Kingdom, that they are quite mystified by this talk about opposition and hatred and adversaries. They have no enemies because they have never said or done anything to produce some enemies.
The world loves its own, and when believers live just like those in the world, then there will be no enmity, division or conflict. Everyone will just happily get along. But as soon as you start to live a radical and sold-out life for Christ, you will quickly discover opponents and resistance. It goes with the territory of being a believer.
But the trouble is, when we do not have lots of hardcore persecution of and defiance to the faith, we can be lulled into a false sense of security.