Over the last few years I’ve become far too acquainted with the vocabulary of dangerous weather events. “Slight/Moderate/Enhanced/High risk,”
“Tornado/thunderstorm watch,” “Tornado/Severe Thunderstorm Warning,” and the unofficial but all-important last ditch alert “Seek shelter now” all come across the phone intermittently through the Spring months. Each passing notification indicates a storm growing closer and becoming more defined and therefore more diagnosable.
An “Enhanced risk” diagnosis is a forecast that a day has a decent chance to take a turn for the worse. “Watch” means the elements are now in place for the potential storm. “Warning” means those elements have formed. “Seek shelter now” means you’re about to see and feel the results.
If we had a similar system for persecution in America and the West, sometime in the last 10-15 years we moved from slight risk, to moderate risk, to enhanced. Then, in the last year, we moved from a risk to a watch. In some places, the watch became a warning, resulting in a “seek shelter now” message that the storm has arrived.
Attendees at a Mississippi church’s worship service were fined $500 per person for attending a worship in which they didn’t even leave their cars. Kentucky’s governor declared Easter churchgoers would have their license plates recorded and would be subjected to a two week quarantine. He went through with the license plate plan and police informed the churchgoers they were subject to quarantine, though it’s unclear if or how that was enforced. Another Kentucky church was met with police presence and an anonymously placed box of nails at their parking lot entrance. John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in California famously went through a series of legal confrontations for the right to continue meeting last year.
These all pale in comparison to what’s currently happening in Canada, though. One Alberta church saw their minister put in jail for a month and eventually saw their building fenced off by the police. Another church had their worship service interrupted by officials, eventually leading to the arrest of their minister as well. These are just a few of the many examples we could cite. And while this is no match for what goes on in countries like China, it is still a form of persecution, and usually once a culture starts down that path they don’t turn around.
If your response is “Well they shouldn’t have been meeting, it’s dangerous,” or “They wouldn’t be in trouble if they just complied,” you’re missing the point. Their conviction is that God wants them to meet. For them, it would be a sin not to meet (Romans 14:22-23). And they are being policed for carrying out those convictions. That is persecution.
If your response is “It wouldn’t happen otherwise, it’s only because of COVID,” you’re missing the point on a different level. This headline sums it up best – “John MacArthur believes the Bible trumps COVID-19 public health orders. Legal scholars say no.” The article’s tagline says “While the government can’t tell people what to believe, it can restrict their actions.” Translation: You are perfectly free to follow the Bible, unless the government disagrees with the Bible.
That headline is the “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” stage. The events listed above are the “Seek shelter now.”
Thankfully such restrictions have not been universal, and it’s true that they will likely lift as we begin to move on from the worst of Covid sooner or later. But the principles in place that allowed for such violation of conviction are toothpaste out of the tube. They can’t be put back.
What will you do if and when it comes for you?
The nice thing is, we can know right now how we’ll act should that day come.
In Luke 16:10 Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” In context He was discussing money, but the statement is a truism that we see both in Scripture and in day to day life. If you’re faithful in the small challenges now, you will be when bigger challenges come. If you don’t have a backbone to stand up for Christ today, you won’t have one when the real challenges start.
Are you unwilling to be unpopular today? Are you willing to swim upstream against the culture and stand up for God and His Word on issues like abortion, sexuality, gender roles, Biblical racial unity (as opposed to Critical Race Theory), etc.? If so, then your faithful stands today will translate to further faithful stands down the road.
Are you one of those Christians who repeatedly sides with the world against other Christians, and chides your brothers and sisters from the sideline? That’s who you’ll be should the world turn on Christians in this country.
Are you able to stand up to people in your life right now? Are you willing to confront a fellow Christian about their sin? Are you willing to talk to the lost about Jesus? If you’re a church leader, are you willing to risk losing members for an unpopular but correct decision? Are you willing to stand up to that person who tries to steer the church their own way through passive aggression or gossip? If not, you certainly won’t have the strength to push back against the threat of persecution.
“We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) isn’t just something we say to government. It’s something we sometimes need to say to our family members, to work colleagues, and even to people in our church family. It’s also something we tell the world by our actions. Am I walking by this truth now? Do I have the backbone to obey God rather than men?
If not, now is the time to develop one. Take time every day to sit before the throne of God and consider His holiness. When we do that we’re training ourselves to hold onto the truth that He is the only one whose opinion matters (Matthew 10:28). Do the little things day in and day out that fortify your faith, being faithful in little to prepare for the day when much may be required.
Pray to Him for strength to stand firm in the moment of testing, just as our early brethren did (Acts 4:24-30). Pray that our churches would have leaders who fear no man and who will do whatever it takes to obey God rather than men. Pray that whatever comes our way, we will be faithful to Him and that our actions will encourage our brethren and be a light to the lost.
The storm is coming. Are you ready for it?