Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Persecution Complex

Listening to on-line sermons, I detect that some pastors seem to be developing a persecution complex. I wonder if they are frustrated by their failure to bring in the revival that they have been prophesying and are unconsciously looking for an excuse. They can be tempted into believing that the revival has not come because the church is being persecuted by the government. In the current debates, some pastors are using the words tyranny, totalitarian and autocratic to describe government mandates during the Covid crisis. They object to the New Zealand government telling people what they must do and promise that they will stand on behalf of those who are losing their freedom. This looks a little bit like self-inflicted martyrdom.

The reality is that very few adult Christians in western countries like New Zealand are persecuted for their faith. I am sure that some Christian children get a hard time at school, but for adults, freedom of religion is well-entrenched in our culture and in our laws. Many people don’t like Christianity, and a few hate it, but they mostly just ignore the Christians. They express their hostility by ignoring the church as if it is irrelevant to their lives.

The government does not monitor what pastors are preaching to their people. The only way that Christians and pastors can be persecuted here in Aotearoa NZ is by deliberately disobeying laws and government regulations in a very public way. Even then, they are mostly just ignored, as if they were foolish and irrelevant. To get noticed by the government, a pastor has to do something hostile to the government that really stands out.

If the influence of Christianity in our nations continues to decline as fast as it has in the last couple of decades, the influence of the spiritual powers of evil will increase significantly. The time might come when Christians do face persecution for sharing the gospel, but that seems to be a long way away. Pastors who cry “Wolf” now are undermining their credibility for when a real test comes. By talking of autocratic government, totalitarian government and tyranny, they are creating unnecessary fear. If they are really concerned about the direction that society is going, they should be teaching their people how to prepare for the future by forming kingdom communities where they can support each other.

I hope that pastors ranting about taking a stand against a tyrannical government are not encouraging their people to make decisions about their employment that they will come to regret. A person who loses their public-facing job because they refuse to be vaccinated could pay a huge price for very little benefit (they are not being prevented from praying or sharing the gospel or being forced to deny the lordship of Jesus). It does not bring glory to God, and it does not advance the gospel. The pastors who encourage those taking a stand will still have their jobs and will still get paid when the dust settles, while those who take their advice might face a long period of unemployment, dependent on the government that they hate for income.

Jesus told his listeners a parable about counting the full cost before going into a pointless battle. It is advice that should be taken by people who are considering the loss of their employment because they choose to refuse a vaccine. And pastors should make sure they are giving careful advice.

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