|Garrett Kell, Pastor Del Ray Baptist |
America is facing turbulent times. Political unrest is unceasing. The racial divide is deepening. Fear and frustration swirl frantically.
This leads to only one logical conclusion: It’s a wonderful time to be a Christian.
Christians are uniquely equipped to thrive in tumultuous times, not because we are great, but because our God is. As we consider the darkness of our days, I’d like to share five reasons I think it is a wonderful time to be a Christian in America.
1. People are intrigued by real Christians.
Whether it be through media stories, political reports, or comedy sets, “evangelical Christians” are characterized as whiny, entitled children. We are perceived as bigoted hate-mongers looking down on others while blinded to our own shortcomings. We are seen as outdated, overrated, and irrelevant.
Yet, when someone meets an actual Christian these days, they often are intrigued.
Our convictions are peculiar, but the gentleness and respect with which we hold them is refreshing (1 Peter 3:15). We don’t demonize those we disagree with, but treat them with charity, as we want them to treat us (Matthew 7:12). We engage with humility because we know that we too are imperfect and need God to change us as well.
“The peace Jesus provides is strong enough to hold back the gates of hell, and weather the storm we face today.”
Our community is also peculiar. When they observe the church, they find a people who are not naturally united. We come from different cultures, vote for different candidates, march for different causes, and often have little in common — except Jesus. When people spend time with us, they perceive a love marked by patience, charity, and heavenly-mindedness.
Now, not everyone will like real Christians when they meet them. But God’s word promises that he will use our love to change people’s opinion of us and (more importantly) of our God:
Keep your conduct among [non-believers], so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12)
If Christians will engage their neighbors with courageous, humble, honest, servant-hearted love, people will be pleasantly surprised.
2. Christians have the answer for racial reconciliation.
The rock of racial unrest has been rolled over in our country. Out from the darkness have crawled sorrowful reminders that our progress is incomplete. The anger and apathy that swirls around our brokenness tempts many to despair.
Yet Christians know Jesus provides a better way. On the one hand, we cannot simply say Jesus is enough and expect peace. The issues are far too complex and wounds too deep for a superficial balm. The hard work of praying, fasting, listening, learning, confessing, repenting, forgiving, and changing is required.
White brothers and sisters ought to show love by learning about the deep roots of social, institutional, and communal injustices that affect many today. Read the Scriptures alongside historical books that recount the black experience in America. Talk about what you are reading with African-American friends and include other minority friends in the discussion. Don’t be defensive or quick to make excuses. Listen. Learn. Repent of sin that is exposed. Empathy is developed when education occurs in the context of relationships.
Black brothers and sisters, I encourage you toward a resilient faith. Many of your forefathers endured oppression, were denied membership in white churches, and grew despite a lack of access to theological education. We need to see that resilience now. Systems of injustice will not be corrected overnight, which means that testing will continue. But as tests come, please ensure that your hearts are being purified and not petrified. White Christians are not your enemy. Jesus says they are family. The Lord calls us to “hope” all things, including the best in fellow believers, even when we hurt, confuse, or disappoint each other.
On the other hand, we must say Jesus is enough, for he himself is our peace.
[Jesus] is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:14)
We have already been reconciled in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16–20). While laboring to apply this reconciliation takes hard work, we must remember that he has made us one — even if we don’t feel like it (Ephesians 4:1–3). The peace Jesus provides is strong enough to hold back the gates of hell and weather the storm we face today.
The world does not have an answer like Jesus. They have no power and no lasting solutions. But we have an opportunity to show them the unity that Jesus prayed for and purchased with his blood (John 17:20–21).
At the cross alone, fear mongering, finger pointing, and apathetic indifference are put to death, and real reconciliation comes to life.
3. God has brought unreached peoples to us.
For centuries, the American church has been praying, raising money, and sending workers to take the good news of Jesus to people who have not heard. This work is important and must continue, but we can’t overlook what God is doing in our own backyard.
God has brought unreached peoples to us.
“What would happen if Christians opened their homes and their lives to the strangers who live next to them?”
Though policies surrounding immigration are debated, the reality of immigration is not. Tens of millions of legal and illegal immigrants have settled in the United States. Many have fled war-torn countries and are seeking a fresh start. Many are seeking hope which cannot be found in Allah or any other supposed god.
Regardless of your political views, if you are a Christian, your theological convictions should spur you to action. What would happen if Christians opened their homes and their lives to the strangers who live next to them? Showing Christlike hospitality to Muslim neighbors is essential for them to understand the true message of Christianity.
I do not say this lightly — we are positioned to fulfill the Great Commission.
Dispersed peoples and advances in technology have opened unparalleled opportunities to advance the gospel. While we are able, we must steward this opportunity and make disciples among the nations, and by his grace, many are in our backyard.
4. Persecution is purifying us.
Jesus promised that following him would be costly. He warned, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Ostracism and affliction have marked the church since its beginnings. Yet, the United States has been largely spared this common experience of believers.
Many minority groups have tragically endured oppression, but as a whole, the church in America has known freedom to worship Jesus. In fact, public worship has not only been allowable, but advantageous. Churchgoing opened doors for business, made one appear trustworthy, and was required for social acceptability.
But the tide is changing. And as it does, Christians are experiencing increasing pressure from the world to conform or be conformed. This pressure will expose some so-called “Christians” as imposters, but for true believers, it will produce maturity.
Pressure from the world pushes Christians deeper into Christ. As this happens, we will be pruned and purified. We are forced to search his word to explain our convictions (1 Peter 3:15). The importance of prayer becomes undeniable. Political power is exposed as a mirage. Sin’s offerings are less desirable. Our affections are reoriented toward heaven.
In his mercy, God uses persecution to purify our profession of faith to the point that we can honestly say, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Persecution should never be sought, but when it comes, we can trust that God will use it for our good.
5. We are closer to seeing Jesus than ever before.
The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)
Every generation since Christ’s ascension has clung to this promise. As time has passed, it has only become truer. Whether Christ will return in our day is yet to be seen, but the horizon is brightening as the day is darkening. The believer sees this hope with unveiled eyes and senses the sweetness of approaching glory.
Until now, many of us have gone days or weeks without even giving thought to the Lord’s return. Our love for the world has drowned out the need to hope in the world to come.
“Whether Christ will return in our day is yet to be seen, but the horizon is brightening as the day is darkening.”
Yet, in God’s kindness, today is a new day. As we grow in our love for Christ, our hearts will be oriented toward heaven. We will find the chatter of the world emptier and the promises of heaven fuller.
The Lord’s return cannot leave us unaffected. Let it move you to prayer for perseverance (Mark 14:38). May it press you to risk all to reach the unreached (Matthew 24:14). Ready yourself for your heavenly bridegroom, and let his coming keep you sober, knowing it could interrupt your next breath (Luke 12:40).
It is a wonderful time to be a Christian. God is working among all nations, including ours. Let us not despair or be deceived, but lift our eyes in hope to him who is coming soon.
Garrett Kell (@pastorjgkell) is married to Carrie, and together they have five children. He serves as pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.