Different Not Defeated

Obadiah 11–17, Joel 2:12–19, Luke 21:12–19 (read online ⧉)

The problem with being a follower of Jesus is, well, being a follower of Jesus. First, it makes you different. There’s step one. Being different. We all want to fit in, but as a follower of Jesus Christ, we aren’t supposed to just “fit in” to the world. Sometimes that may mean we don’t fit into the church or even our family. We don’t like that. It is uncomfortable.

The next problem, or at least something that should be a problem, is that we aren’t liked for being followers of Christ. This doesn’t mean that we are to be unpleasant or cruel. We are to display holiness, which we ourselves struggle with and against. There will be trials and tribulations, or there should be. That has been one of the biggest pitfalls of being in the United States. We have lost most of the tension that our faith has with the world. We have become comfortable with the world, especially as expressed in the United States. This is why we should embrace our growing discomfort in the current culture. We are beginning to rediscover the cost of being a Christian. We certainly are not at the place where Christians are being targeted programmatically. While many of our beliefs are being challenged in the culture and government, we are still free to practice our faith without fear.

What gets interesting is how much of the non- and anti-religious people are beginning to gloat with their apparent victories against the faith. History doesn’t support their victory laps. The faith was practiced behind closed doors for years and flourished. We are seeing it now in other countries. The greater the oppression, it seems, the greater the growth. Obadiah’s warning to the gloaters is that they ought to be careful in their gloating. They confused discipline and training for destruction and defeat. Sadly, so do many Christians.

We are called to be in a healthy state of continuing repentance. It’s not as if God doesn’t already know that we messed something up. God is God. A state of ongoing repentance means that we do not think too much of ourselves and too little of others. This is how we keep ourselves from surrendering to defeat and allowing ourselves to embrace God’s discipline.

The part that often confuses Christians and non-Christians alike is that if Jesus Christ is King, then why does all this bad stuff happen to anyone, let alone Christians? That is a great question, and if asked honestly, it is worth working through. That doesn’t mean we will have all the answers, nor does it mean we will have the right answers for everyone. We need to have the right answer to that question for ourselves. When we are confident in the power and strength and wisdom of the King of Kings the power of our answers is not the facts they convey but the Truth that is God.

1) What do you think of the current culture compared to so-called church culture?

2) Where do you see yourself not fitting into wider culture? Where do you see yourself not fitting into church culture? How does following Jesus affect either?

3) What is your emotional response to apparent cultural victories over Christianity and even faith in general? What does that response tell you about yourself?