Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (I Peter 4:12-14)
No doubt by now you've heard about the major controversy surrounding the Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson. Whether you actually heard the story or have just seen the massive backlash from it, I'm sure you know something regarding the whole scenario. As the story goes, Robertson was doing an interview with GQ Magazine and made some rather coarse remarks that were deemed homophobic by the interviewer. As a result of that interview, A&E has indefinitely suspended Robertson from appearing on the show that features his family and the business he helped create. Since A&E's announcement, there has been an uproar in the social media universe against their decision. Backed primarily by Christians, people all over the country are calling for A&E to rescind their decision.
I have nothing to say as to whether A&E will or should change their decision. But as Christians, we should not be surprised by the initial reaction. I doubt whether this social media backlash should have started at all in regards to "freeing" Robertson. The homosexuality issue in particular has become so prevalent in society, and A&E seems to want no part in its opposition. It is not a Christian organization, and so they want to shy away from anything in the Christian realm that would be controversial in the secular sphere.
Stories like this (and more than that, the responses to them) are part of the reason that the Christian community is looked down upon by society. And again, that should come as no big surprise to us. They want nothing to do with God, and they want nothing to do with His people. As the apostle Peter writes in his first epistle,
Can I be honest with you? If we think that this is some big issue of Christian persecution, then our American Christian culture is weak. Phil Robertson was kicked off a TV show, and in our minds that is a solid comparison to the martyrs of the early church. Seriously?
I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine, and we got talking about secular society's reactions to Christians today. We both agreed that there have been many signs pointing to the fact that the American church is getting ever so slightly closer to truly being persecuted. (Note that we did not say the church would be persecuted more, just persecuted. To the secular culture, we are more of an annoyance than an enemy at this time.) My friend and I were also both in agreement that we are eager to see such persecution happen. How can we be eager for something like that? Because of the truth that Peter lays out for us. If we are reviled and insulted for our faith, that just means that we are giving God glory and that His Spirit is at work within us.
Persecution is going to come to the American church. And it won't just be some little thing like a guy getting kicked off a television show. When it does come, we should not try to fight our way back into the secular foreground, because that will accomplish nothing. Instead, we should praise God along with the early church that we would be "counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:41). This is not a bad thing! It is shaping us to be more like Christ. We are sharing in His suffering so that He may refine us into His perfect bride. Those who are not comfortable with that are not truly His followers; they are still looking out primarily for their own interests. When this persecution does come to our country, it will be a refining time within the church, separating the wheat from the chaff. And as we can see throughout history, the Church is strengthened and grows swiftly when it suffers persecution.
In Luke 18, Jesus poses the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Faith is primarily strengthened through times of hardship and adversity. I admire Phil Robertson and the stance he has taken for the Christian faith, and if the price of that stance is that he is taken off a TV show, so be it. But what about when the real persecution begins to take form? Will our time in the fire be a testing and refining of our hearts as with precious metals? Or will our faith burn up with the idols we still cling to? What are you doing today to prepare your heart for the onslaught that is to come? I pray that the Lord would continue to strengthen His people, and they would find their peace in Him when the hard times hit.
A simple servant of the Master.