Accusations Against Christians — A Reprise


There’s quite a litany of accusations against Christians these days, from both non-Christians and others who call themselves Christians. Those charges include things such as Christians can’t do art or create good speculative fiction. More seriously, some say Christians are greedy and hypocritical and hateful.

Sadly a selection of very visible individuals or groups claiming the name of Christ have reinforced some of these ideas—pastors who end up having affairs, televangelists who preach health-and-wealth rather than sacrificial giving, sign-waving funeral crashers who condemn rather than present the good news.

But then there are individuals like the owner of Chick-fil-A who became the brunt of accusations because of his stand for monogamous, heterosexual marriage. He too was accused of being hateful.

Recently, as I was reading Scripture, I realized, we might as well get used to these sorts of recriminations. All the way back in the Old Testament, people proclaiming the truth about God and man’s sinful condition were tarnished with the brush of accusation.

Even Elijah. He prophesied during the reign of one of the most sinful kings Israel would know. Ahab married a pagan and proceeded to lead his people into idolatry like no king before him. He built temples and altars and assigned priests and made sacrifices to these false gods, all the while persecuting those who were faithful to the Lord God who lead them out of Egypt.

As judgment on the nation, God, through the prayer of Elijah, withheld rain from them for over three years. Needless to say, they suffered severe drought and famine. Ahab apparently conducted an extensive search for Elijah, thinking perhaps to force him to beseech God for rain. His search failed because God kept Elijah safe and supplied with food and drink.

When at last God told Elijah to return to Ahab, his first assignment before dealing with the drought was to confront the prophets of of the false god Baal. But before he could propose a showdown, Ahab accused him of troubling Israel.

Elijah didn’t let the accusation stand. Rather, he turned it back on Ahab:

He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. (1 Kings 18:18)

Of course today such a statement would be seen as further evidence of a hateful, intolerant, unloving attitude.

I think this is why New Testament writers like Paul and Peter were instructing Christians about how to handle things like false accusations and suffering. Peter in his first letter makes a strong case for suffering for the sake of righteousness, not for wrong doing:

and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:16-17 — emphasis added)

In the end, it seems the only thing we as believers in Jesus Christ can do is live godly lives. Earlier Peter said

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation . . . For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:12, 15)

Apparently Jesus flipped the script, and Scripture says we are to follow His example:

And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23).

“Hypocrites! Hateful! Greedy!” The accusations will come. The key is to silence our critics, not by taking a defensive stand, but by exhibiting good behavior with which the accusers cannot argue, then trusting God for the results.

With some minor revision, this article is a re-print of one that appeared here in November, 2012.

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Published in: on November 26, 2018 at 4:43 pm  Comments (7)  
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Persecution


Umpqua Community College, Oregon

Umpqua Community College, Oregon

There’s been another school shooting, this one at a community college in Oregon. USA Today reports that ten people lost their lives. What sets this shooting apart is that the gunman was apparently hunting for Christians according to the New York Post.

Several sources who were present or who talked with someone at the scene reported the gunman’s systematic approach:

“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian,” she wrote. “If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs.

Of course there will be the usual discussion about gun laws and mental health, but in this instance, it seems necessary to also address persecution, particularly of Christians. Some believers are shocked or outraged, as they were at the pictures of the beheadings of believers in Syria. Some are doubtful. After all, not many news outlets have included the “Christian targeting” aspect of this shooting.

Murder and intentional injuries inflicted on strangers at a college campus are both shocking and outrages in and of themselves. But if in fact some died because of their faith, a new horror has begun here in our own country: people targeted for no other reason than that they were Christians.

Undoubtedly many will chalk this incident up to one crazed individual, but what believers should not do is to discount the real possibility that persecution—and I don’t mean store clerks wishing us a Happy Holiday instead of a Merry Christmas—will be something we’ll face one day.

I tend to think that a lot of Evangelicals, raised in the theology of the Rapture assume we won’t be around to suffer persecution. In many ways this has fed into the comfortable American Christian mindset. We live in a country that protects religious freedom and we’ll be taken from this world before any judgment will come down on those who reject God. Consequently, the most important thing—and I’m not saying it isn’t important—is to protect our rights, particularly our religious freedom.

But Scripture doesn’t convince me that we are supposed to live a life free of the cost of discipleship, even if that cost is high.

Jesus Himself set the standards:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25)

Published in: on October 1, 2015 at 6:43 pm  Comments (19)  
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