The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Finishing 2012 Well

CompassCare’s 2012 was the most effective year yet, while America’s was arguably one of the worst. There is a certain emotional torment when torn by the honor of working with such a noble team of passionate, godly people at CompassCare while living in a country that calls evil good and good evil. The following are my personal reflections as I have observed both America’s moral trajectory as well as the Church’s response to it. If you find yourself becoming depressed read on it gets better. If you come to the end and find yourself depressed, read it again. So here goes:

Abortion is a symptom of a deep cultural problem that further deepened in 2012.  It was a year characterized by a secular attack on the traditional family through the redefinition of marriage to include same sex couples as well as an attempt to usurp parental rights through a barely defeated UN Treaty (Convention on the Rights of Children with Disabilities). It was a year that endured an onslaught against religious liberty via Obamacare which now permits the government to define what qualifies as a religious institution. In fact 2012 was the year that suffered the largest expansion of abortion access since Roe vs. Wade, by making you and I pay for abortion-causing contraception directly through our healthcare premiums. To top it off the Executive administration behind all the anti-Christian, anti-government-by-the-people havoc was given another four years by the narrowest of margins with only 26 States and 50.7% of the popular vote.

These past few weeks I have met with over 30 Pastors of some of the most influential churches in the Rochester, NY area. Inevitably we talk about Obamacare and religious liberty infringements imposed on people of conviction as well as the November election. Invariably they say they were not surprised by the outcome of the election and the Church’s lackluster response thus far to the Obamacare mandates forcing individual’s to pay for abortion-causing contraception. I have asked them two questions: 1) What do you think of the general spiritual condition of the Church in America? and 2) Are we prepared for the future?

Their answers reflect a stunning consensus. Before their answers are revealed, it is important to note these pastors virtually never communicate with each other and are godly men from very different traditions. In response to question number one I heard candid statements like, “The Church in America never really embraced Christianity,” and “Christians in America think of themselves as American first and Christian second,” and “The American Church has an Alka-Seltzer Jesus who we go to only to relieve our petty discomforts.” Strong words to be sure. But what about their answer to the second question, ‘Is the Church prepared for the future?’ Answer: A resounding, ‘No!’

Let me be clear, none of these pastors were despondent. Quite the contrary, they were full of sincere hope when they gave these dire descriptions. So when probed deeper about the nature of what’s in store for the Church that makes us unequal to the task, the solution to our collective weakness was simultaneously revealed: We are not fit for the coming hardship because we are unaccustomed to suffering for our beliefs. After all, this is America and it is no coincidence that a nation founded on religious liberty also became history’s most prosperous country. So what made us great as a nation perhaps made us weak as a Church. “And how do we return to faithful fitness for so great a task as real sacrifice?” I would ask. “Through persecution, Jim. The church will be forced to make a choice to either suffer for the gospel or give in. But the faithful will remain and God will be glorified.”

In Paul’s second letter to his son in the faith Timothy he says, “. . . join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8b). From this statement we can presume at least two things: a) Timothy was not currently suffering for the sake of the gospel and b) Suffering for the gospel is a choice we all have to make. Paul goes on to say in verse 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” So it seems that our decision to suffer for the gospel is directly proportionate to our commitment to live a godly life.

Bonhoeffer 1932

You may be wondering at this point what abortion and the pro-life position have to do with persecution for the gospel. In his memoir about the theologian and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, G. Leibholz said, “Bonhoeffer was firmly and rightly convinced that it is not only a Christian right but a Christian duty towards God to oppose tyranny, that is, a government which is no longer based on natural law and the law of God.” It was after all Jesus Who taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Why is abortion and government policy related to the gospel? Abortion reflects the rejection of natural law and the law of God. Abortion reflects the imposition of a purely materialistic and secular, anti-God ethic, forcing the idea that human life has no meaning or higher purpose than to experience as much physical pleasure and as little pain as possible. And now through Obamacare the government forces people of faith to act in ways that are counter to their belief by paying for abortion directly out of their health insurance premiums.

This situation will test a true Christian’s mettle. Will we continue to justify abortion as rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s or will we

now render unto God what is God’s and stand against this tyranny by standing for life here and now? Jesus made a way for our salvation but it requires our death. It cost Him everything. He asks us now to do the same for others. Give Him everything this year, Christian. Suffer for the gospel.