Very few people enjoy controversy. We would rather live in harmony with those around us. Christian tradition has taught us to respect the views of others and their right to hold such views. Love is tolerant and kind. Bigotry, on the other hand, along with blind prejudice and blatant rejection of the opinion of others goes right against the spirit of patient understanding shown by Christ.
Jesus demonstrated infinite patience, understanding, grace and tolerance throughout his life and ministry. He always had time for people, caring for them in their problems and was compassionate in all His dealings with others. On the cross, He argued on behalf of His enemies, choosing to bless rather than to curse. “Father, forgive them,” He said, “They don’t know what they are doing.”
A politically incorrect Christ
But this didn’t mean that Jesus had an “anything goes’ mentality. He didn’t accept every action as right or every opinion as equally true and valid. He spoke the truth, He lived the truth and He was the Truth. This meant that a clash with the culture of His day was inevitable. Don’t forget that if Jesus had kept His head down, turned a blind eye to injustice and ignored the errors of His day, He would never have been crucified!
Rejecting the well-trodden course of political correctness, He chose rather the path of highest resistance to the culture of His day. Jesus called the hedonistic Herod a fox, challenged the relativist Pilate with the truth and castigated the empty religion of His day as He fearlessly contradicted the Scribes and Pharisees.
Love speaks up for the downtrodden, rejects the lies of the arrogant and cuts at the roots of cultural complacency. Love confronts evil and is not intimidated by it. Today, we are told by our society that you cannot really know truth and that every opinion is equally valid. You cannot claim that you have the truth, that your book is the truth or that there is only one way to God. You are reminded that there are many “truths’ and many “ways’ out there – many rival claims to revelation and many “realities’ to choose from.
In a world of so-called tolerance, it seems as if the Christian gospel is the only truth not to be tolerated. Increasingly, pressure is coming to us from our culture to keep quiet about our faith. Our rights to proclaim the gospel are being resisted.
All religions equal?
The Government fosters a “multi-faith’ approach to religion which is based on the clear fact that there are many different religions in Britain. But this so-called inclusive policy is not just an expression of religious tolerance or racial equality. It is driven also by the underlying philosophical view that all religious views are equally valid, as long as they are sincerely held. This imposes a moral and spiritual dogma upon our society and comes close to enforcing a belief system upon us that we, as Christians, find totally unacceptable. The Government, it seems, has turned its back on the Christian history and heritage of this nation.
The world’s values and morals are increasingly being forced upon the Church. We are not allowed to call sin, sin. Instead of fornication we are expected to use the term “co-habitation’, lesbianism and homosexuality are now “alternative life-styles’ and abortion is no longer murder but we are expected to see it as mere “termination of pregnancy’.
The pressure from the anti-Christian culture of our day is very evident in mainland Europe where some evangelical groups are being labelled as cults and in some places such as Sweden; it is now illegal to speak publicly against homosexuality. This means that the law is being used not only to protect the rights of individuals but also to force minority views upon the society as a whole. The state is legislating belief, dictating to us what is true and not true, and telling us what we should believe. There is increasingly less room for the freedom of the conscience of individuals – especially Christians.
These “European’ views and practices are beginning to shape us in Britain also. The European Union which was first presented to the British people as an economic community is now being revealed as a super state in the making. Its power threatens to control what we believe and do, not just in the public arena but also in our churches, in our homes and in our private lives.
Countering non-Christian culture
As Christians committed to truth, we must contradict the lies of our culture and resist the pressure to be politically correct. It is time to speak out. Error is error, no matter how sincerely held. You can be sincere and wrong! People have the right to choose to believe what they want to believe, but that doesn’t mean that what they choose to believe is right.
We must not assume that any of this is new. The Church throughout the ages has had to speak out against sin, false beliefs and evil practices. It is part of our purpose in the world. I remember a quotation from a professor of Church history who wrote of the early Church as it first emerged into the world:
“The Church didn’t step onto an empty stage but into an arena of warring sects and rival faiths.”
The same is true today. We are surrounded by claims, counter claims and contradictory voices clamouring for attention. But amid the cattle market of opinions, values and religious beliefs stands one whose age-old declaration rings out loudly through the centuries, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
This is the truth that we proclaim and follow. It’s truth-in-action, a life-style not a speech. God is raising us up to confront our culture with the love of Christ. Our words and actions must work together to present a bold and credible witness to Christ in the confused world of today.