Justin Welby is the Archbishop of Canterbury and a noted evangelical leader. When he recently spoke at the Lambeth conference, he affirmed the validity of a 1998 declaration that gay sex is a sin, saying the resolution is “not in doubt”. Her statement caused a huge outcry among those in the Church of England who affirm same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ideology.
In response to this ongoing controversy, the conservative Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches launched an effort to have the 1998 resolution reaffirmed as the official position of the Anglican Communion. Their leader explained, “We cannot break bread with bishops who betray the Bible. We can’t just go wrong saying, “Well, we’re together. We’re not really together. It’s hypocrisy.”
Time to prepare for a hurricane
Tolerance is the cardinal virtue of our postmodern culture. In a society that defines all truth as personal and subjective, there can be no objective basis for adjudicating conflicting truth claims. Accordingly, we are told, we must tolerate all statements of truth that do not harm others.
However, as DA Carson notes in intolerance of tolerance, our company has redefined the concept of tolerance. Previously, this meant allowing people to be wrong. Now that means there is no “fake”.
Unless, of course, you disagree, in which case your opinions cannot be tolerated.
In a culture that rejects biblical morality and those who affirm it, we can expect such intolerance to intensify in the coming years. Accordingly, we must prepare today for what is to come tomorrow. The time to prepare for a hurricane is before it arrives.
To that end, an example I discovered today in the scriptures offers the guidance and encouragement we need.
A prophet goes to jail
In Jeremiah 32 we read that “Zedekiah king of Judah imprisoned [Jeremiah], saying, ‘Why do you prophesy and say to yourselves, ‘Thus says the Lord’” (v. 3). The king goes on to quote the prophet’s warning that the city of Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians (vv. 4-5), clearly a warning the king did not want to hear.
Consequently, because he did not like the message, he imprisoned the messenger.
We see the same pattern throughout the scriptures, from the Israelites’ opposition to the leadership of Moses to the nation’s sin during the time of the judges to the rejection of many prophets and their revelations. We see the same with the apostles tried before the Sanhedrin, Paul imprisoned by the Romans and John exiled to Patmos.
Above all, of course, we see this pattern in the life of our Lord. Jesus warned us, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). As Paul noted, “All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12, emphasis added). The apostle allowed no exception.
However, the more people reject biblical truth, the more they need biblical truth. How can we respond to their rejection in a way that draws them to our Lord?
One: Speak the truth with love, not condemnation
The psalmist noted that “there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:3). As a result, everyone you know needs God’s transforming truth, including yourself.
When you speak biblical truth, you are not imposing your opinions but you are offering the word of life (John 6:63). However, we are called to speak this truth in the humility of another sinner and in the love of Him whom we represent (Ephesians 4:15).
Two: Reframing Opposition as an Opportunity for the Gospel
Pain is part of life. Even Timothy, Paul’s “son in faith” suffered from “frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). Persecution for godliness is also to be expected, as we have seen.
But God is not constrained by our constraints. Jeremiah 33 begins thus: “The word of Lᴏʀᴅ came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guards” (v. 1). God gave imprisoned Paul epistles that changed the world; Jesus met John on the prison island of Patmos.
In fact, God often uses our constraints to show His grace. Faithful suffering shows the power and relevance of our faith. The fact that Jeremiah would not change his message under persecution made his message even more powerful.
So, ask God to help us reframe our obstacles as opportunities to trust Him and serve others even as they reject our Lord. Oswald Chambers observed, “God expects his children to have such confidence in him that in any crisis they are the most reliable. He added: “There are stages in life where there is no storm, no crisis, where we do our best; it’s when a crisis hits that we instantly reveal who we’re leaning on. If we have learned to worship and trust God, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break our trust in him.
Three: remember how the story ends
Scottish Minister John Baillie prayed: “Let me always bear in mind that the things that matter are not money or possessions, neither houses nor possessions, nor comforts or bodily pleasures, but truth, honor, kindness, helpfulness and pure love for you. .”
When God answered his prayer, he then thanked the Lord for “the strong feeling I have that this is not my eternal home.”
A seminary student was playing basketball with friends in the yard of a nearby high school when he noticed an elderly school janitor sitting on the steps. The man watched them play while reading the Bible open on his lap.
During a break, the seminary student walked up to the guard and asked, “What are you reading?
“The Bible,” replied the man.
“I can see that,” said the student, “but which part?”
“The Book of Revelation,” said the Guardian.
“The Book of Revelation?” replied the surprised student. “Do you understand that?”
“Of course I understand that,” the man said.
“What does it mean?” asked the student.
“It means,” said the keeper with a smile, “we win.”