Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Distraction of Persecution

When I was a young Evangelical, I was always told a great revival was coming. I believed it was more likely I would see a time of persecution instead. I wasn't sure when exactly it would happen or what it would look like, but whatever was coming wasn't going to be pretty. I had seen the shock films portraying the end times & the rapture, but I was never fully convinced that God would rapture Christians before the tribulation. What I understood from the Bible is that they were meant to experience at least part of it & be witnesses to those “on the brink” of hell. I could be wrong. Either way, I thought often about how I would respond to imprisonment or torture. Could I be as brave as Peter or Paul?

We were told how the anti-Christ would start beheading Christians if they didn't take the mark of the beast. The UPC system & implanted chips were supposed to start the ball rolling. Who knows, those things could still come into play as tools of persecution. But I'm not sure if the obvious things are the the ones we need to be paying attention to. I can't help but feel like all this chaos of late is a distraction for something else to come.

Christians in my circles would typically say the anti-Christ is one individual who is yet to come. But 1 John 2:18 says many anti-christs have already come & gone. 1 John 4:1-3 tells us it's actually the spirit of anti-christ that's at work in the world. I suppose that could mean an individual, yes, but I'm inclined to think a little bigger. What if the spirit of anti-christ was more of a belief system? What if that system employed hatred, intimidation and... protest? What if this spirit was antagonistic, coercive & appeared oddly pragmatic to the rest of the world? And what if this is the real driving force behind the kind of mob mentality we've been seeing these days? Don't you find it curious that so many people are just too agitated to engage in civil dialogue anymore? Where did all this vitriol come from? It certainly didn't happen overnight, but this is the world we live in now. 

This is only the beginning. It may be birth pangs of what's to come or it may be nothing more than a singular wave of dissent that crashes on the shore & retreats with time. We've actually experienced many waves already. We've seen the spirit of anti-christ beheading Christians via Isis & other terrorist groups. We've witnessed the persecution of Christians in the middle east & many other countries. In fact, persecution began before Jesus was even dead on the cross. It only continued to gain momentum when He rose & ascended back to heaven.

That statement sounds preposterous, even to me. Who actually rises from the dead? What about heaven? Is there even such a place? Remember the serpent who distracted Eve with doubt? Think of that same spirit of anti-christ who coerced Adam to see things Eve's way... Consider how basic matters of faith are often brought into question in the attempt to cause doubt & distraction. The only way I know which side is up sometimes is by going back to scripture & consulting the oral/written Tradition of the Church.

There's a verse in Revelation 22:11 that says “Let the evil doer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy and the righteous still do right and the holy still be holy.”. I take that to mean “live & let live”. I don't condone what I believe is wrong, but I also won't condemn. It's not my place. How did the saints of Revelation finally overcome Satan, their accuser? By the Blood of the Lamb (Jesus) & their testimony (Rev. 12:11). There's no arguing or trying to reason with the spirit of anti-christ. You can't argue with crazy.

If you want to know my personal views, I will be happy to share them with you & afford you the same courtesy. But like you, I'm not interested in being bullied & belittled for what I believe. I'm also not interested in bashing someone for how they practice their religion or for how they choose to live their lives. It's not for me to make a judgment about someone else's morality or faith. I'm busy worrying about my own! If I can't find a sense of reconciliation within myself, I will choose to keep my peace for the sake of peace. I don't always need to have my way. 

I know there are Christians out there who believe we should make our own signs & storm the abortion clinics, face the liberals, and oppose the POTUS on immigration & other issues. "To do nothing is consent to sin" they say. Yes, in some instances, this is true. But one must also pick their battles wisely. While as Christians we all fight the good fight of faith, not every Christian fights with the same weapons on the same battlefield.

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