For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine. – Philippians 1:29-30
Is it more dangerous for someone in Christ to live in a culture which accepts and even encourages faith or in a culture which is indifferent or hostile to faith? Most of us include in our list of the blessings for which we are thankful that we can worship free from any threat of harm. Such has not been the case for persons of faith through the centuries and is not the case in certain parts of the world today. Claiming and proclaiming a transforming faith in Christ Jesus have often been accompanied by threat of danger and suspicion.
The Apostle Paul certainly knew such a culture. He and many others in the first century experienced the vicious oppression of a hostile culture, which imprisoned, marginalized, tortured, and martyred persons of faith. In fact, Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while he was in custody in Rome, a short time before he would be martyred. In it, he offered encouragement to those who believed in Christ Jesus and knew what it was like to “suffer for his sake.”
For the most part, our experience is quite different from that of Paul and the Philippians. However, that does not mean that we face no danger. There is a down-side to living in a faith-friendly culture. While we may not face the prospects of the seizure of property, the robbing of our liberty, or the taking of our lives because of our beliefs, an encouraging culture presents us with real danger. Since we face little resistance, our faith can grow weak, lose vitality, go undefined, and seem unimportant. An encouraging culture can cause us to take the broad way and the easy path which lead to destruction, to gain ”the whole world” and forfeit our soul, to confuse following the Lord with merely following the crowd,
You see, danger accompanies faith – danger from hostile cultures, in which faith is discouraged, and danger from faith-friendly cultures, in which faith may be neglected.
Physical harm or spiritual atrophy – which do you think is more dangerous?
Lord Jesus, we thank you for our freedom to worship, serve, and find life in you. May we use this freedom to develop our faith, to live in truth, and to grow in grace. Amen.
A Bible-study devotional blog by Gorman Houston