photo: Jim Southard

Now, in Western culture that’s increasingly no longer the case. Christians, especially Evangelical Christians, are considered fanatics, and not just fanatics, but dangerous, because we are lumped in with the fanatics of other religions, including violent fanatics. So we are in the lists of watch groups, including even governmental watch groups. Evangelicals are on the lists of potentially dangerous religious organizations. That presents a very significant challenge to Evangelical Christians as they engage culture today.

Right now, our situation is not horrible. You might lose a job, but you won’t lose your children. But the day may come when we will face threats like losing your children, losing your freedom — you might be imprisoned — your ability just to feed your family, and those sorts of things. And when those days come, then Christians are going to have to reassess how they can best influence the culture around them.

So when I think that the apostle says to the Thessalonians that he wants them to be sure to live “quiet and peaceful lives,” or as he says in other places, “obey the kings, obey those in authority over you,” the purpose of those relatively quiet lives was not to withdraw from the people around them, but was actually to find the best ways to influence the people around them. And so as Christians today, as we see these changes in the culture around us, and if they continue to be increasingly aggressive toward us, then we’re going to have to change our culture, to be salt, to be light, to be a city on the hill, in ways that are different from what we’ve been used to.

It’s not going to involve the sorts of things that we have known before, like having a political campaign, or having a march, protesting, or joining a boycott. It will have to involve things that we would all say are quieter, and might look on the surface more passive. But the goal of doing that remains the same. We are still the salt of the earth. We are still the light of the world. We choose this or that particular strategy because it will be the appropriate strategy given the circumstances that we face.

BENYOLA: As a lay Christian, who is somewhat involved with ministry, though not in any official way, I’m always looking for ways to be an influence to the culture, yet because I’m not in full-time ministry, I have to be very cautious with what I publish, with what I say. I work for a great corporation but it’s a secular corporation. I have to be careful about everything. I want to be the salt and light, but the personal risk is high when you speak of your faith at all.

PRATT: If it is, in fact, just a personal inconvenience, then to back away from public Christian witness would be wrong. But if we’re talking about serious persecution, it’s a question of wisdom. We have to choose the wise course. Jesus did not overturn tables every day. He did it, as far as we know, once, perhaps twice. But he certainly did it on occasion. So, different people in different settings have different roles that they need to play as they are the light of the world.

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Covenant theology, interviews, missiology