Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A Pastoral Concern about suffering for the faith

I listened to a podcast from Issues, Etc. about the possibility of soft totalitarianism coming to the USA.  The man interviewed, Rod Dreher, makes an alarming but compelling case about what Christians may be facing in the not too distant future.  In fact, he notes that in some cases, it is already upon us.  The interview is about 55 minutes, but worth your time.  Note: It is a warning, not a cheery story.  But I also think it is something that Christians ought to consider seriously.

You can listen to the podcast here: https://issuesetc.org/2020/09/30/2742-a-christian-response-to-soft-totalitarianism-rod-dreher-9-30-20/

While Mr. Dreher refers to totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism, he notes that soft totalitarianism will not necessarily eradicate the Christian Church.  It will just make it very uncomfortable and inconvenient to be faithful to Christ.  

This raises a concern: What we are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ?

We have become quite accustomed to having our freedoms in the USA.  In fact, we rebel against inconvenience--not persecution or oppression, but inconvenience.  This is how "Okay, Karen!" became a saying.  Since we are a free society, we can get away with it.  We may be labeled as rude and we may be asked to leave the premises of where we are, but we would likely not be jailed.  So, we have the freedom to be rude and the freedom to gripe when we are asked to wait a minute (not that using our freedoms that way is admirable).

But we come back to the question: What we are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ?

Are we willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of Christ?  How about taking a financial hit and being forced to live with less--much, much less?  How about being refused a job or enrollment in college because we are Christian?  Are we willing to be reviled or shunned for confessing our faith publicly?  Are we willing to stand up for the truth of God's word and refuse to buckle to incessant pressure to accept what is deemed social justice by our society?  Are we willing to tell our children that they will not be participating in sports anymore because the coach demands a commitment to him that means church always comes in second place?  Are we willing to suffer physical harm?  Or to watch a family member suffer physical harm for the faith?  Are we willing to die?

Although we might be bold enough to credit ourselves for a willingness to die for confessing Jesus (and if that ever should come upon you, I pray that our Lord will sustain you through it), chances are, we are ready to shrink back from our confession much earlier than that. Soft totalitarianism may take root, but it seems to me that we are soft ourselves.  We have had to suffer precious little for Jesus' sake.  How much are we willing to endure before we deem it too hard, too inconvenient, or too unpopular to remain a Christian?  I can't answer that for anyone.  Each of us must answer for himself.  And if we are honest, I suspect none of us would like the answer we give.

If church attendance, hearing the word, participating in the sacraments, and prayer have not been a high priority for you, it is time to make them a high priority.  Whoever has not made a habit of attending church weekly will find it very easy to leave the Christian faith when persecution comes.  If you have taught your children that church attendance is an occasional thing, persecution for the faith will present them an occasion to leave the church altogether.  It will be easy to denounce Christ for a person has not been listening to him much anyway.

I am no prophet.  I don't know what is in store for the USA, and I can't promise that persecution is coming soon.  The trends, however, suggest it is not far off.  So, what can we do?

If we are going to be willing to suffer for the faith, we need to be grounded in the faith.  If we are going to stand firm in our confession regardless of the consequences, we must be confident of what we are confessing and convinced of its truth.  In other words, we must flee to our churches to be strengthened in word and sacrament.  We must bind ourselves together to fellow Christians so that we know we will not be alone if we should suffer for the faith.  We must commit ourselves to caring for those who end up suffering for the faith.  We must pray, and pray, and pray.  All of these things are good and right whether we face persecution or not.  They are essential at all times.  Thus far, our religious freedoms have permitted us to be lazy about these things.  But laziness leads to apathy, and apathy for the faith in times of persecution guarantees that faith will be renounced.  You can't fireproof a house that is already burning; therefore, you cannot prepare for persecution when it is already upon you.

If you yearn for eternal life for yourself and your family, you will cling to Christ who alone gives it.  Hear his word.  Receive his sacraments.  Enjoy the fellowship of believers.  While persecution, whether soft or harsh, is never enjoyable or easy, no persecution nullifies the salvation that Jesus gives.  We are confident of that.  It is necessary to flee to Christ as our refuge so that we remain secure in that--and are even willing to suffer all things, even death, rather than lose it.

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