It seems that, in a variety of situations, Christians throughout the UK are experiencing an increase in opposition to the Christian gospel. Of course, there has always been a price to pay for following Jesus Christ. But in the last few years, where once it was only the brave evangelist who would meet spiteful opposition, now anyone who seeks to speak out and live out the teaching of Jesus can find themselves facing serious opposition.
Yet it is almost with a sense of relief that we find ourselves back to what the Bible considers normal!
Opposition is normal
Jesus told his followers exactly what to expect, and why we should expect it – ‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 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 kept my word, they will also keep yours’ (John 15:18-20).
The principle is crystal clear. We can expect some to believe the gospel, and some to oppose us. As Jesus himself was crucified after three short years of ministry, we must not be surprised with opposition – it is normal.
This is why anyone who desires to follow Christ is told that he must ‘deny himself and take up his cross’ (Mark 8:34). We will inevitably pay a price for following our Lord in a world that is opposed to him.
The gospel is an issue
Many have recoiled with shock at the open attacks and lack of respect shown for the Christian faith in recent times. This is understandable, because for generations we have lived in a nation where Christianity has had a privileged position.
But although we have been saddened by the accelerated erosion of those privileges, it is my belief that there are some outstanding advantages for Christians in this new situation.
Firstly, we can be thankful that the gospel is now an issue. God’s ways are not ours, and we could never have imagined (for example) how a handful of intelligent, articulate, high profile atheistic evolutionists could have been so helpful in putting creation, the gospel, and the Lord Jesus Christ back on the agenda. I prefer this situation to the apathy which dogged us even a few short years ago.
Secondly, we recognise that God is working out his purposes in this new situation. Opposition has the effect of making Christians focus on what really matters. Our list of priorities are instantly reassessed – and how we need that today, both in our personal lives and our evangelical churches!
Stand fast in the Lord
On a personal level, we read that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness, leading to maturity. That is such a blessing for a Christian that James actually tells us to ‘count it all joy when [we] meet trials of various kinds’ (James 1:2).
Thirdly, opposition and persecution teach us through experience to remember who we are – ‘strangers and pilgrims’ who are simply passing through this world and looking for ‘the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13). Heaven becomes more of a daily reality in the midst of trials.
Fourthly, we have only a limited opportunity here on earth to suffer for Christ’s sake. Since there is no opportunity in heaven, now is the time. We do not seek persecution, but we do desire to ‘stand fast in the Lord’ in the face of it (Philippians 4:1). Let us seize the opportunity to show how much we love our God