A university professor recently criticized churches in Canada for not being progressive in our changing society. He claimed we are standing in the way of social progress. His remarks remind us that while we live in a country that believes in freedom of religion, we face opposition in subtle ways. This sometimes even breaks through in violence, as we’ve seen recently in several locations. Many Christians wonder if we can make any progress in today’s setting – or keep on going at all.
We need to be reminded that the first Christians had everything stacked against them. The church was born in a tough environment. Rulers like Annas the high priest and Caiaphas thought they had defeated Jesus and stamped out his disciples. Within days of Pentecost, Peter and John were jailed, interrogated, threatened, and reluctantly released (Acts 4). Then all 12 apostles were jailed, ordered not to preach, and beaten before their release (Acts 5). After Stephen was killed, a huge persecution broke out against the church, forcing Christians out of Jerusalem, chased by men like Saul.
Despite all of that, the faith of these early Christians was never stronger. Their prayers were brave. “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence” (4:29). God blessed them with strength, courage and boldness. The church went on to expand and multiply. They boomed!
No matter how subtle or how strong modern opposition may be, and no matter what Satan is up to, we can act with faith, courage and boldness.
“So, they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (5:41).
Are you up for it?
– Tim Johnson