The changing marketplace

Christianity began as a small voice in a tough marketplace for ideas.

Over time, it came to dominate in the western world, losing some of its vitality.  Now, it is in a battle once again – and that may well be a good thing.

The temptation, as believers, is to bemoan what is happening around us.  The U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, the abortion laws in western countries, the attack on religious rights – all these are signs that Christian values have lost their hold in the western world.

Like many Christians, I am sad that many values we hold dear are being swept aside.  But I am also aware that this is not new.

Early believers were routinely accused of undermining the state and the prevailing religions in the Jewish and Roman worlds. Many were jailed and many died for their beliefs.

But Christianity grew because of the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit changed people.  And their love and acts of kindness had an impact on the hard Roman world and later the pagan invaders.

Today we see Christianity thriving in Asia, Africa and South America where it has had to compete with Marxism, totalitarianism, Islam, other religions, and grinding poverty.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I have been reading A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison which speaks of many new Christians springing up in Islamic societies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.  It is the character of Christ – the love of Christ – that has won them.  They see Christ and they know he is God, a God very different from the one they were taught to follow in their societies.

In these places, Christianity is often underground.  Christianity was once seen as a conquering religion during the colonial years and Christians today have that memory to fight along with other prejudices.

In many ways, Christians in these countries are showing us in the western world how to live and reach out to others.  They are teaching us Jesus’ way.

We in the West are not yet living in hostile societies and under hostile governments.  But we are being called to stand firm in our faith –  in love.

It is a hard thing to do.  My instinctive reaction is to fight back when my values are threatened.  But Jesus stood for what he knew was right while at the same time winning many through love and the wisdom of God.

That’s a challenge for me in the new world I am living in.

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