As Christians, we understand that the Gospel is not violence, at least not in the way that the world accuses it. For, while the Gospel does attack the parts of us which are deader than dead, it also brings never-ending life that replaces our death and can never be taken away. The Gospel damaging our sinful flesh brings life in the same way the surgeon’s scalpel cuts away the cancer to preserve the patient. Therefore, to withhold the Gospel, which is the only cure for the malady of man, would be the only actual violence we could ever perpetrate against humanity.
A kind of fragile despair has crept into the modern mind so that it can no longer be safely challenged. To question the thoughts, or the lifestyle, of another person or group has become the moral equivalent of executing violence against them. Or so we are told. To say that this or that thing is morally wrong, and needs to be repented from, is to become culpable for their suicide. This was the ugly goblet of shame recently dumped on my unsuspecting head.
In a private message on Facebook, I was asked the following questions by a random user:
“Do you think my friend deserved all the abuse and pain that she took? Are you happy that she’s dead? Do you hate my friend? Pastor, did you want transgender people to kill themselves? Is that what you wanted?”
These questions were shocking to me. Not only does my very existence (and Biblical beliefs) threaten the life of another human being, but the only acceptable recourse offered is for me to no longer call transgenderism a sin. As a Christian, I cannot comply here. According to this logic, either I will disobey God by turning a blind eye toward sin or become a serial killer with bloodstains on my hands. This is the highly polarized perspective I was invited into.
But, as I was thinking about this exchange, I realized that this is precisely what persecution will look like in the modern world. When a Christian shares truth from Scripture, even in the most gentle and loving ways, we will not be beaten, beheaded, or thrown in prison. At least not yet. More likely, we will be accused of murdering people with ideas. We will be endlessly boycotted and ever hated by people who do not have the love of Christ and, as a result, have an endless supply of fury to spew in our direction for a thousand lifetimes.
The message continues:
“You’ve made an enemy. Until you stop your vendetta, die, or move away, I guess I’m just going to have to fight you forever.”
As Christians, how are we to think about messages such as this?
REMEMBER, WHO WE ARE
Before we move on to strategy, we need to remember who we are in Christ. We are people who have been ransomed out of the kingdom of darkness and brought into God’s marvelous Kingdom of dazzling Light (Col. 1:13). Before Jesus rescued us, we were enslaved by our aberrant passions (Ti 3:3) and consumed by all malice and disgusting rebellions (Ro. 1:29-32; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Co. 6:9-10). There was nothing at all different between the most flagrant sinners on earth and us, which is, in fact, where God stepped in (1 Cor. 6:11). From that wicked and lowly estate, the Lord Jesus Christ set His electing affections upon us and purchased us out of the thralls of sin to become His slaves of righteousness (Ro. 6:17-18). Now, as people who belong to Him, we declare our allegiance and adorations, our loyalty and love, by no longer gratifying our former lusts (Gal 5:16; Eph. 2:1-8), but by killing the flesh (Ro. 8:13), so that we can be obedient to Him (John 14:15; Eph 2:10). That loving and loyal obedience requires that we will go, do, and say whatever He commands (Luke 6:46), which involves nothing less than discipling the pagan nations to know what Jesus thinks concerning all things (Mt. 28:18-20). Essentially, being a Christian means joining Jesus’ campaign to conform the world (the world we once belonged to) into His beautifying redemptive vision. That work requires sharing the Gospel (Mk 16:15).
REMEMBER, WHAT WE ARE CALLED TO SHARE
Now, to share something, we must first know what that thing is. We can only speak intelligently about a thing if we fully comprehend what that thing is. For that reason, a brief sketch of the Gospel is in order, followed by some common lies that the world will accuse us of when we are vigilant in sharing God’s truth.
The Gospel is God’s loving offer of reconciliation and compassion to seedy rebels (Ro. 5:8). It is an offer executed by Christ alone (Jn 14:6), applied by His Spirit alone (1 Pt. 3:18) for the salvation of those He predestined alone (Eph. 1:5; Ro. 8:28-30). It is a message meant to be communicated by the very ones it saves (Ac. 1:9). It is a message we are called to become increasingly familiar with and effective at sharing (Phm 9). And it is a message that has certain essential elements that must be included if it is to be considered a “Gospel message.” Those elements are as follows.
The Gospel begins with the bad news that we deserve death for our rebellion against God (Gen 3:19; Ro.1:32) and that we cannot repair the relationship by our own fickle virtue (Eph 2:8-9). The Gospel tells us that our sin is the poison that is killing us slowly (Ja. 1:15), and it is the toxic venom that will ensure our everlasting death in agony forever (Rev. 21:8). Because we are utterly helpless to rescue ourselves salvation must come from God alone (Jnh 2:9), which is why God sent the Lord Jesus Christ to save His people from their sin (Jn. 3:16).
That rescue plan required Christ perfectly obeying the law that you and I had perfectly transgressed (Heb. 4:15). It would involve God crediting us with the righteous status of Jesus Christ (Phil 3:9) while pouring our sin and our rebellions onto Him (2 Co. 5:21). Christ would trade places with us, giving us His life and freedom, taking our misery and shame down into the grave (Gal 3:13-14) and bringing us new life in His resurrection (Ro. 6:6). For Christ Jesus on the third day, rose from the dead, being exalted above all things (Phil 2:9), securing redemption for all His lowly people (1 Co. 1:16-17), and making Christ the author and perfecter of our salvation (Heb 12:2). Then, after ascending into heaven, to reign at the right hand of God (Ro. 8:34), He is now pouring out His Spirit onto all whom He chooses (Jn. 6:63; Ac. 2:33), so that they will have faith in Christ alone (Ro. 15:13), and so that the Spirit will help them declare His Gospel alone (Jn 16:13; Ac. 4:12; Ro. 10:14).