Thursday, July 5, 2007

American Freedom (Reflections/Questions from the 4th)

I often wonder if the vast freedom and prosperity we have in America is such a great thing. Don't get me wrong...I am thankful for it and enjoy it. However, when I look at situations that the gospel spreads like wildfire and the church shows great flashes of vibrancy I often tend to see this taking place in places where believers are under intense persecution and pay a high price for their faith (e.g. the 1st century church or modern day China and some parts of the former Soviet Union). One may say, "Hey what about your boy Jonathon Edwards, God moved in a spectacular way in America in the First Great Awakening in America." And to that I would concede that you would be right. However, that does not seem to be the "norm." So, I have been wondering if all this freedom is so "great" after all if we want to see true revival. Is is sick or wrong to want persecution to come? Am I not bold enough with the gospel for persecution to come my way? If Acts type persecution stared me in the face, how would I respond? I don't know. I just know that God's grace is sufficient for my weaknesses and that He would give me strength. But even saying that sounds so cheesy sitting here in my safe little house in the middle of a bunch of cornfields. I am really interested to hear what others think.

Then again, I always come back to the fact that in one sense it does not really matter because I will have to account for what I have done for the cause of Christ in the time and place that God afforded me. This is a scary thing to think about, especially considering, "...everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required..." (Luke 12:48). I have been given much in many ways. This is such a shocking reality check for me and often makes my stomach tie up in knots when I realize the vast amount of time I have squandered here.

What is it about some guys, like Edwards and other great saints of the past, that they were able to keep such an eternal perspective. Oh that God would give me the grace to, "to live with all my might, while I do live" (Edwards, Resolution 6) or "that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die" (Edwards, Resolution 17).

I know that this blog entry was really random and scattered. I am interested to get some feed back from the small handful of people that read my blog and the even smaller handful that comment.


Jeff Johnson said...

Well, here's my two cents worth:

Both freedom and persecution are part of God's plan. (We can be confident of that since they are both realities in our world, now and in the past.) I think they both serve the Mission, but in different ways.

The persecuted church grows deep. There are no stragglers at church when persecution is present...those involved are committed. The reality of chosing God over, literally, everything else is a daily occurance. At the time of persecution, all else is stripped away, allowing a clear view of how precious God is. And the theology and faith that grow out of persecution bless generations to come for centuries. And so, I think persecution is a tool God uses to solidify His body, to refine the gospel and burn away the chaff (of the message). The global church needs this periodically to keep its message pure.

But the freedom and prosperity (like we enjoy now in America, and others have enjoyed over the centuries) provide for widespread proclamation of the gospel that is not possible during times of persecution. 1 Timothy 2:1-7 shows that the "peaceful and quiet life" is a gift of God, but like all His gifts, it is intended for the proclamation of the gospel to "all people". Widespread proclamation is only possible with freedom and prosperity; God provides these specifically for His Mission.

I heard (or read?) an account of an American pastor and an African pastor together. The American pastor expressed how his church really felt for the African church living in such poverty. And the African pastor in turn expressed how his church really felt sorry for the American church living in such prosperity. Moral: both can be strenghts, both can be weaknesses.

I realize my perspective on persecution might seem cold, and I certainly don't mean it to. But in the end, we're all servants of one King, and His Mission is the goal and priority.

Trevor, you're completely right. The call to faithfulness is ringing loud. Each Christian in American has been given abundant gifts of freedom and prosperity specifically for the furthering of the gospel. How are we doing with that? How am I doing with that? And if we (the American church) are deemed not faithful, will God give the freedom and prosperity to others that will be faithful? That reality is scary and exciting. Scary because of what life might look like here in America. Exciting because, a) of how the American church could deepen during times of trouble; b) it shows God's passion to save people and His sovereingty in working world history to make that happen.

Great topic, Trevor. Keep 'em comin'!!