The importance of discipleship in a world that is hostile to Christ
Writing in Prophecy Today, Kathryn Price presciently states: 'A battle is looming, indeed is already under way, as Christians are discovering that they are not just in the minority, but frequently actively under increasing attack for holding traditional biblical beliefs. Many . . . believe that this is set to intensify – with the country facing continued judgement for our decades of turning away from Him.'
Christians in the West are not being persecuted. To pretend we are is to insult our brothers and sisters elsewhere who face very real dangers for the faith. However, it is increasingly clear that the testing of our faith will escalate in intensity, and some will not come through with their faith unimpaired.
If we are to face the dangers of increasing hostility toward those who hold biblical beliefs in the midst of a deteriorating culture and society, we will have to dig deep. The key to resisting in the future is to remember that Jesus does not want admirers: he wants disciples.
Disciples do not have all the answers, but they have a glimpse of the right path. They do not try to impose that upon others. By speech and by life, disciples attempt to show a better way. By openly walking along that right path in their own lives they invite others to their position.
The church today has too often has stressed making a friend of Jesus rather than becoming disciples of Christ. The admirer respects and listens to Jesus, yet lives in conformity to a world which rejects him. The disciple attempts to be like the one he follows and accepts that there is an inevitable cost to discipleship and is prepared to pay the price. As Bonhoeffer reminded us, 'The cross is not the terrible end of a pious happy life. Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ.'
As disciples face an increasingly hostile society and the price it exacts, it is important that we develop fellowship with other disciples.
Fellowship is more than a cup of tea after the service: that is friendship. Friendships are important and should be cultivated, but there is a world of difference between friendship and fellowship. We can have friendships and relationships with unbelievers, but Christian fellowship occurs only within the body of Christ.
Our fellowship with other Christians is based on our fellowship with God and develops with our discipleship. 'If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin' (1 John 1:6–7).
Fellowship is best when it is local, but we cannot wait for the best. Luther, a lone monk in an out-of-the-way minor university, used the newfangled printing press and changed the world. We have even more potent tools of communication today which can unite us with fellow disciples across the world, all serving the same Lord, all fighting the same fight, all able to bring our own contribution. We can develop meaningful and effective fellowships where we search the Scriptures together, pray for, affirm and encourage each other.
It is a simple matter to support organisations involved in the resistance, to become informed about their work, pray for them and contribute where possible. Bodies such as the Christian Institute and Care do much of the heavy lifting for us. If we want to know about a particular subject, the initial research has already been done.
Contributing to the comments section of a blog or website brings us into contact with other Christians, and we can build networks where we share concerns and insights. Carefully handled, we have available the tools to bring us into supportive contact with Christians nationally and internationally.
When we have a secure base within the fellowship we can reach out to unbelievers, to counter false beliefs and also to join with them. We do not shelter in our Christian bubble, close the door and lock it, condemning those outside to darkness.
Secularists can be valued companions in the struggle. Some like Jordan Peterson know and are influenced by the Bible; others give no indication of knowing God but nevertheless they are in, and usually leading, the resistance to the cultural takeover of Western civilisation. We can learn a great deal from their cultural and political analysis. We can influence them and share with them the reasons why we reject the assault on our culture and our vision of a better future. Importantly we should also hold them in our prayers.
A vision for the future
Just being against what is going on today engenders a purely negative mindset which closes us in to a small group trembling and afraid of the outside. We reject much of what is going on in society today, but was the past so perfect? We cannot afford to look back with rose-tinted spectacles and relax in a warm bath of nostalgia. There was much to be admired in the past, and much to be regretted.
Campbell Campbell-Jack is a retired Church of Scotland minister. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.