Passage for the Day 1 Kings 18:20-39
In our Western culture we are not generally used to experiencing active and institutionalised hostility to our faith. Yes, we may have aggravation from our friends and a lack of comprehension from our colleagues, but we have enjoyed freedom for hundreds of years to practice our faith in the way that we choose. We have not had to face decisions of life and death that our brethren in other countries have had to experience. Although we may feel isolated, we are certainly not like Elijah confronting hordes of false prophets on Mount Carmel.
However we do not know how long our freedom will persist. Most persecution does not suddenly happen overnight. It arises gradually as freedoms are gradually restricted, and each new restriction comes to be accepted. Now we have nowhere reached the stage of being persecuted, and it is all too easy to be overdramatic about the situation we face. But at the same time there is no harm in preparing folk for what may lie ahead in the future. Already court cases have shown how difficult it can be to bring your faith into your place of work: wearing a cross or running a married couples only policy for bed and breakfasts, it seems, is beyond the pale.
And soon state law will run directly contrary to the teaching of Scripture. It is not only that we have to know how to respond appropriately to the question of same-sex marriages; it is how we respond to our children being taught new sexual norms, or charities being asked to comply with equality policies that in fact are discriminatory. Hard choices lie ahead, and where those hard choices take us we do not know. But we need to be ready for all eventualities, and maybe we ought to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
At least the example of Elijah tells us that when we need to put our faith on the line, the Lord is more than able to demonstrate that He is sovereign. Maybe what will turn the hearts of the people in this generation will be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ who refuse to conform to the pattern of this world and who are prepared to pay any price. So will I be ready to do just this? That’s a question I need to think about carefully.