Why Christians should expect opposition
Sexuality is a minefield. Christian – tread carefully!
In our culture, if you say something that others perceive to be wrong, you can provoke a verbal lashing or a social media storm, or worse. Remember the bakers who were prosecuted for not baking a cake with a pro same-sex marriage slogan? Or the man demoted for saying in a private Facebook post that allowing gay weddings in churches was ‘an equality too far’?
Perhaps you remember a heated reaction when you said something about your Christian faith or the biblical teaching on sexual morality?
Why is this happening? Why is God not stepping in to protect His people who stand up for the Gospel? Or are Christians at fault for choosing their words badly – or even for speaking up at all?
Jesus gives us an answer. There’s a section in Matthew’s gospel where he enrolls the disciples into The King’s “School of Mission.” He prepares them for a first field trip, where they will put their heads above the parapet as they speak into their culture. He sends them off to find “the lost sheep of Israel” by repeating Jesus’ message, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 10:7)
But the lesson takes a dark turn. He warns those first disciples, and it seems all disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” (10:16a). Do you feel your adrenalin pumping as He says that? It’s not a comfortable picture, is it?
Addressing sheep heading into the danger zone, Jesus continues, “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (10:16b). Snakes were thought of as clever beasts. Be like them. Don’t be naïve. Be shrewd, and think very carefully about what you say and how you say it. Don’t jump down people’s throats.
A Christian recently lost his job for tweeting, “Warning – Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolaters – Hell awaits you – Repent!” Perhaps that wasn’t the wisest or shrewdest way of making his case?
Be shrewd. Don’t give the wolves a reason to devour you.
And don’t give them a reason to accuse you either. Be as innocent as doves. Doves are gentle. Apparently, doves mate for life, and so they are an example of purity. So live a pure life. Then if the wolves want to accuse you, they will have nothing to accuse you of – beyond being faithful to Jesus.
Who are these wolves?
Jesus describes three packs of wolves. The first pack of wolves can be the religious: “Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local [religious] councils and be flogged in the synagogues” (10:17). People can be very religious, very devout, but oppose Jesus’ message of repentance and faith. Religious people, religious leaders, can oppose biblical truth and those who stand up for it.
We see that, don’t we? You don’t have to look far to see church families that have lost their buildings and assets, or leaders who have lost their jobs, for teaching biblical sexual morality. Could that happen to you or your church in the future?
The second pack of wolves can be the state. “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.” (10:18). Jesus anticipates Christians facing the highest authorities in the land. Read reports from Open Doors or Christian Solidarity Worldwide and see that Christians around the world suffer under governments and dictators who hate their faith.
At the moment, we face hardly any state interference in our faith. But this year, the government is looking to ban conversion therapy. Although TFT is clear that it does not practise any form of conversion therapy, concept creep could mean this legislation expands to outlaw Christians praying for one another in any way that does not fully embrace a gay identity. If that was the case, could you or your church leaders face courts in the future?
The final pack of wolves can be a Christian’s own family. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” (10:21). We expect family members to be loyal to each other. But Jesus’ call to repent, to turn away from sin and to crown him as king, is so repugnant to some that they would rather hate their family than submit to Jesus.
Again, Open Doors reports tragic stories of Christians abroad being betrayed by their families. But perhaps that happens closer to home? Even in subtle ways? How many TFT members feel family pressures to “get with the times, give up being so restrictive and settle down with a nice boyfriend or girlfriend?”
Seeing three packs of wolves can shock us. But is opposition surprising? Jesus doesn’t think so. “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.” (10:24). Didn’t Jesus’ own family try to stop him ministering? Didn’t Jesus face persecution at the hands of the religious? Didn’t Jesus endure a trial at the hands of a governor and a king?
So opposition shouldn’t surprise us. If Jesus faced wolves in his culture, we will in ours.
But then why would we risk speaking up? Why would we not just keep our heads down? Why risk the wolves?
If we love people – if we care that they are rejecting King Jesus and are on a path to judgment – though we may fear what might happen to us, we will still share the good news of Jesus. Jesus the King has come to us, He has served us by dying for us and He has promised eternity to us as a gracious gift.
Paul – the wolf who became one of the sheep – reminds us we have the words that can transform other wolves into sheep – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16)
Sexuality is a minefield. Christian – tread carefully! Christian – speak up! And do so praying you will be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
This article was originally published as "Watch out for the wolves" in the Summer 2021 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Summer 2021 edition of Ascend