A strange thing happened to me the other day. I wrote a small post and I found myself being belittled and attacked by various people in response. Now that should not be strange at all as I do write plenty of things that ruffle many feathers and challenge people’s beliefs. But this was different. This attack was coming from conservative, republican, evangelical, holiness follows of Jesus Christ. It felt more like a type of friendly fire as I was trying to serve on the front lines of the American spiritual battlefield, yet those in my foxhole were beginning to question my loyalty and treating me as a hypocrite and a spectator in the battle.
I felt confused and frustrated, and I had to restrain myself in my responses when I could, for why would I want to make an enemy of those I serve with? I thought about it a lot last night. And I figured something out. You see, when true persecution begins to take place in our faith, there are various ways that Christians may choose to respond.
Some Christians jump ship and carry their faith only in secret, yet publicly look and act like the world. This is a great way to avoid persecution, yet if we take scripture in context, those that take this approach to save themselves may lose their salvation by doing so. The authority of that statement comes from the Savior Himself when He says, 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. (Mat. 10:32-33)
When I was attacked the other day, I realized that the saints who were attacking me were responding to persecution in a different way. Rather than choosing to hide or flee, these Christians were fighters. And being a fighter is nothing new. In fact, history calls these spiritual warriors “zealots”. Now on the surface, a zealot is a very good thing. These people are loyal to a cause and are willing to give their lives to see justice done. On an earthly battlefield, you want an army filled with zealots. The problem is, Zealots have one great weakness: pride. A true Christian zealot will always struggle with allowing God to do the heavy lifting and waiting on His provision. In other terms, they lack the patience to wait on the Lord and follow His directions and commands.
Judas Iscariot shows us how someone who wanted the right things can be used by the evil one when God doesn’t move fast enough. Judas loved Jesus and spent 3 years with Him. In Acts, Luke even says that Judas was counted as one of their number. He was a true disciple. Yet as time went on, Judas became impatient. He wanted Jesus to be the earthly King that he believed the Messiah to be. And as Jesus continued to push for a peaceful display of His coming Kingdom, Judas’ heart became hardened. I believe at some point Judas realized that Jesus was not going to free the Jews form the Roman occupation. This forced Judas to take matters into his own hands.
All of us have a certain amount of zealot in us, and none of us are exempt from feeling that we need to force God’s timing. I am sure that Peter was willing to die for the Lord when he cut off the ear of the soldier that was arresting Jesus, yet the ways of God are folly to man’s wisdom.
The US is going through a very tough time. The very DNA of who we are (as a country) is rapidly changing as a melting pot of religion and culture begins to attack those who are unwilling to compromise their traditional values and beliefs. What we need to understand is that there is nothing we can do in our own power to change this tidal wave of postmodernism and pluralism.
Why was I attacked by my fellow conservative believers? I was not moving fast enough or strong enough for them. Many are preparing for a physical battle that may lead to a war that could be used to accelerate the fall of the organized church as we know it. It may go down as another crusade for Christ that leaves millions dead in its wake. The problem is, Jesus has never called us to pick up the weapons of men, for the sword we are called to carry is of the Spirit and not the flesh.
I want America to go back to how it was when it was a truly a Christian country. I want to have the respect and honor that pastors use to have 20 years ago in their communities. And I have a deep yearning to bring people closer to Christ. But we still have to yield to the King. A time of judgement has come for America and the punishment may be severe for many years. It feels like the zealot in each of us wants to somehow fix something that God is already working on in His time.
I challenge the zealot in each of us today to listen to Jesus when He says, “put down your swords”. The way we bring Light to this world has never changed. We are to live holy and upright lives that glorify the living God. That is our call and our command. Our swords are to be the Word of God and our breastplates are to be that of righteousness. We are not called to win back this nation by force, we are called to reconcile our neighbors to Christ. It is not a physical war that is needed to restore this great nation, it takes only a surrendering of our will as we are called to be the Light in a broken world.
Don’t make the mistake Judas made. God has a plan for America and for revival. But those who try and force God’s plans will find themselves fulfilling the scripture that says, those who live by the sword die by the sword. Judas metaphorically fell on His sword for his people. He even believed that Jesus was the Messiah to come. But pride and a lack of patience took Judas out of God’s will and into the service of the evil one. The past 12 months has brought out the zealot in many of us. May we have the humility to examine our hearts and surrender our pride. For we are in a great battle. Not a battle of the flesh, rather a spiritual battle. And let us stop attacking each other, for we are going to need all of our energy as we enter this time of great spiritual famine.