Saint-Georges et le dragon (St. George and the Dragon), Gustav Moreau, 1889-1890
In just a couple of days, the Obama presidency will end and the Trump presidency will begin. What will not change is the primary loyalty of Christians. “Our citizenship is in heaven,” says Paul in Philippians 3:20, and no election can change that. By the same token, no election can fundamentally alter the hostility the world feels toward the lordship of Christ. And while the new administration may be less prone to use the levers of government to limit religious freedom, there is no doubt that the broader culture’s hostility toward the faith is only going to intensify.
In other words, we have come to the very circumstance facing the readers of Peter’s first letter. These Christians were not yet in the crosshairs of the government, but they were on the receiving end of growing social hostility against the church. The pagans “speak against you as evildoers,” Peter says in 2:12. The Christians were “slandered,” and their good behavior was “reviled”(3:16). He goes on to say that the unbelievers “malign” (4:4) the people of God, and that his readers are “insulted for the name of Christ” (4:14).
So these disciples were scorned by the pagans around them for the moral commitments they made. The civil government, however, was not yet involved. In fact, Peter says that under ideal circumstances the government will protect Christians from anything worse happening (2:14). But it is clear that Peter sees trouble on the horizon, a time when even doing good would not spare Christians from harm (3:13-14a).
We are facing much the same situation today. Anyone who publicly challenges the prevailing dogmas of our decadent culture on issues like same-sex marriage can expect ridicule, insults, and contempt. A pleasant fellow on Twitter once told me he was praying for me to break my neck! And the power structures of the media, academia, and big business have made no secret of the social pressures they seek to accelerate against us if we openly stand for the gospel.
So how should we respond? Continue reading