Friday, December 16, 2016

Challenges and Opportunities

As this year draws to a close, and we enter a new year that promises to be very different, Christians in America will be faced with many challenges. Along with the challenges, there will be plenty of opportunities.

This year has been hard on the church as a whole. Deep divisions have been revealed. Along with that, there is a growing distrust of Christianity. While some of these problems are a part of the way the world naturally views followers of Jesus, others are of our own making. One challenge is to be agents of healing where there is division. For too long, we have worried more about the things that make us different rather than the things we share. I know that there are issues that are important that must be dealt with and may be cause for separation. That is not what I am talking about. Much of the time, the things we divide over have more to do with preference and style than substance.

Another challenge we face is the way we are perceived. Jesus said that we would be hated and persecuted. That is true, and I think it could very well be worse than it is now. We need to make sure that we are really being persecuted, and then if we are, that it is because we belong to Jesus and not because we are arrogant jerks. We should be known more by our love and grace than by the size of our protests or the condemnation we speak. We should be known for our allegiance to the King of Kings, and not who we voted for.

I believe that our faith itself is going to be challenged. The days of Christendom are gone. I really don't think the incoming president will keep his promises to make Christians influential again. If he does, I think it will end up hurting the church. We can no longer expect to have government enforce our beliefs. We can probably expect to be looking more and more at a society that is indifferent to us at best, or hostile at worst. The time may be coming when we will be forced to consider whether our faith is worth all of the stuff that will be happening.

The future may be quite challenging, but it will also present the church with opportunities. As we face more hostility, we will have the opportunity to examine ourselves for the reason behind it. If it is truly because of Christ, then we can rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer for the gospel. If the hostility comes as a reaction to our own hostility, then we will have the opportunity to repent and become the disciples we can be. We will have the opportunity to show the truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus. As the face of the church changes and those who are not committed to following Jesus fall away, we will have have the opportunity to show who we belong to, not by our stands on issues, or our style of worship, our our doctrinal statement, but by our love to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to our neighbors. As our influence wanes, we will have the opportunity to affect culture by speaking and living the gospel.

May God give us the grace to be people who love, who are willing to live as a spiritual family which puts others first, and who show the world that the gospel is indeed Good News.

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