Conflict and stress seem to creep up on us during the holidays. The extra commitments-socially, financially, and interpersonally add to the stress of the season. We have to go here; we need to get this done; we need to get it mailed; etc. All or some of this is swirling in our heads.
On top of it all our world is rapidly changing and is challenging. Our nation is facing a “financial cliff” added healthcare costs and possible tax increases. Rising prices, less disposable income, and a future that appears to be unstable and lacking security. Not to mention the attacks on Christianity and Christian values which seem to become popular at this time of year.
Every year we read about individuals in court challenging the public display of Nativity scenes, Christmas trees, or other Christian Christmas decorations. We have observed a push to remove the word Christmas and replace it with Holiday-happy holidays, holiday parade, and holiday tree to name a few examples. Christianity in America is being attacked slowly and incrementally. Without Christian “watchdog” groups and publications I don’t think many of us would stop and critically evaluate what is going on. But the days are getting darker and the pressure on the Church to give in to the prevailing culture is enormous.
A friend of mine’s son, who is in college, has a male classmate who comes to class wearing a dress and high heels. We see television shows that have two men who want to raise a child together. Lesbian talk show hosts continue season after season. The show “Will and Grace” portrayed an alternative lifestyle as acceptable and funny. Movies, TV shows, miniseries, etc. portray unmarried relations frequently. Children are portrayed as the smart and clever character while the adult is portrayed as the goofy and out of touch old fool. These types of behaviors are being touted as the “new normal.” This catchphrase seems to be intent on moving our society away from Christian values and morals that made America great and exposing a generation to believing that what was referred to as deviant behavior is now the “new normal.”
With our rapidly changing culture, one might wonder how Christians should respond. May I suggest four things to consider?
First, on our own, we are not any more righteous than the world is, save the righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ.
In Romans we read, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (verse 23).
A self-righteous attitude will not go over very well with those in the world. Instead, we acknowledge that “there but for the grace of God go I.” In other words, without God’s divine mercy I, too, might suffer the same.
Acknowledging that we as Christians aren’t better people, but we are people who have received forgiveness, mercy and grace helps our overall attitude in reaching out to the lost. The Ladies of Legacy who volunteer to feed the hungry at the Friendship Mission certainly know the value of serving the least of these in our society.
Christians are to be a blessing to those around them. Churches are to bless the communities in which they minister. A humble, caring and loving attitude towards others is what Jesus emulated for his followers. An attitude such as this will go a long way in earning the right to share the gospel with those outside the Church, which is the Great Commission for all of Christ’s followers (Matthew 28:16-20).
Second, we are not to buy into the “new normal.”
Christians need to stand firm in the truth of the gospel. We need to know and understand how we are to live our lives. The only way to know and understand is to be well versed in the bible. Holy Scripture has been preserved for us. We need to take advantage of the availability of God’s Word. As the Anglican Collect states,
“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and forever hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”
Knowing God’s Holy Word will strengthen our resolve to do what is righteous in God’s sight. It will protect us from being swayed by worldly agendas and deceptions. And it will embed in our souls hope that does not disappoint us.
Third, remember our hope is in Jesus Christ and not the world and its leaders.
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:9-10)
There is one Lord and Savior and our hope is in him. Our hope is not wishful thinking or good wishes but it is a hope that delivers us, preserves us and brings us to our heavenly home. Hope which is placed on that which is seen is no hope at all (cf. Romans 8:24-25).
Fourth, be prepared for the oncoming darkness.
We need to be prepared for the onslaught of spiritual darkness. We need to not be beguiled by the seemingly innocuous eroding of Christian morals and biblical truth. We have to set in our minds and hearts where the plum is concerning our Christian conviction. Otherwise, we will eventually be lured into complacency and mediocrity. Stand firm, therefore, in the spiritual battles that we will be called to fight through prayer and unwavering conviction in Holy Scripture.
In conclusion, we should always let the love of Christ rule not only our hearts but our mouths, in dealing with those outside the Church. Any response or position that we take we need to take in humility and love. Those who know they have received mercy, are secure in what they believe, are grounded in hope, and girded in prayer, are able to lovingly respond to the pressures that society is imposing on Christianity.