The word “uncomfortable” reminds us of the AC going out. It feels like someone disagreeing with you on Facebook, the pizza arriving too slowly, or having to wait your turn for the bathroom. “Uncomfortable” is a lightweight western concept, not worthy to couple with the idea of living for Jesus. The more biblically robust “suffering” makes a much better word choice.
But I’m writing this post from the context of North America. We haven’t experienced widespread loss of life or denial of basic human rights for the sake of Christ. In fact, we’ve only begun to feel the souring of our previously pro-Christian culture. We’re officially uncomfortable, but not much more.
Setting aside alarmist rhetoric, the Bible really does speak of an eventual great turning away from God and the truth—an apostasy—that will occur.
…the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (2 Thes. 2:3, NASB)
And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another (Mt. 24:10 ESV).
Even if we’re not in the specific fulfillment of that event, our society certainly likes to have dress rehearsals for it. And make no mistake. It will eventually happen in full, regardless of how Christians try to prevent it. It’s coming despite how authentic/missional/seeker-sensitive we are or how loving, receiving, or gospel-centered we are. The Scriptures don’t tell us all the particulars of how the retrograde will occur. We’re simply informed that it will be widespread and popular. Of course we’re given descriptions of it—things like denial of truth, God-hate, faith bashing, casual blasphemy, deterioration of morality, and rejection of biblical values. Even so-called Christians will be caught up in the vortex of it (c.f., 2 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 4:3-4). These things have always been a part of sinful humanity. However, we’ve never seen them so popularized and politicized in the public consciousness as they have been of late.
While the experts are polling and producing stats on the subject, I want to introduce a couple of non-scientific markers that might be worth paying attention to: Internet forums and incoming classes of college freshmen. Now I know we’re more accustomed to using media and politics as windows into the western soul. Bear with me a moment. I’ve brought up forums because they are places of anonymity. Under a moniker you can say whatever you want without fear of embarrassment or reprisal. It grants the opportunity for the real you to emerge…without brakes. Some of the stuff that flows from keyboards has become downright dismaying. Check out the comments/responses section that follows almost any internet news article, especially related to hot button issues. I’ll be generous and discount a part of that scene as ignorant bravado. But even if only twenty percent authentically represents where people are at, you still have to wonder if we’re not already traveling down a slip n’ slide. You also have to wonder where it bottoms out.
Next, there is the yearly influx of college freshmen. I was in the thick of campus work in the mid 90’s, when Josh McDowell’s book, Right from Wrong, came out. It was an exposé of how high percentages of Christian junior high and high school kids mirrored the sins of society and conceptually agreed with those sins. That was twenty years ago. Recently, a youth approached me at church and said he was the only person he knew of in a large city high school who believed in God at all. The way he described the situation, having faith was about as cool as having B.O. He added, “They don’t just not believe, they hate the concept of God completely.” We chalk all this up to the angst of youth, and hope kids will grow out of it. However, there are indications they are not. High schools are tributaries feeding area colleges. Kids are now arriving on campuses with full-blown anti-theistic biases. They are holding onto those sentiments. I’m not interested in trying to suggest college ministries are dying. Incoming Christian freshmen dutifully huddle into those groups by the hundreds. I get that. I also know weekly meetings are a far cry from spiritual formation and discipleship.
Let me concede that we can’t establish anything normative based on the hot-headed responses of people on internet forums. I’ll also admit that effective evangelism is far from dead on college campuses. God is still moving and youth are still finding Him. Nevertheless, what I’ve said in substance is still true. You know it. Now what do we do?
Here’s a suggestion. Don’t marginalize the situation by pouring Pollyanna optimism all over it. Let’s face reality.
And then let’s consult the Apostle Peter…
To be continued