By Not Known

Jesus assumed that his first followers would be hated and persecuted by the unbelieving world, just as he was first hated and persecuted (Jn 15:18).

The reason for this is simple: neither Jesus nor his followers belonged to the world. We are different. If our first loyalty is to God and his kingdom we will be ‘strangers in the world’ (1 Pet 1:1). The degree of this will vary depending on the society we are in, but we are bound to be different. In any society, people who are different in any way are apt to face hostility.

Talk of being hated and persecuted seems far from our local reality. The Religious Harmony Act leaves most Singaporeans reasonably free to practice their respective faiths. Thankfully, we do not face an officially sanctioned totalitarian ideology in which there is a direct clash with religious belief. Some local Christians face a measure of family or institutional hostility and some ostracism for their beliefs. This can be painful but it is not societal persecution in the way that other Christians suffer it.

However, Christians may suffer hostility for other reasons. All societies have evils in their public life. One role of God’s people is to expose these evils in defence of their victims and to help people see their need of Jesus. Thus the prophet Amos spoke against the injustice and extravagance of some in his day, Wilberforce spoke against the profitable slave trade, missionaries in India spoke against widow-burning, Bonheoffer spoke against the evils of Nazism, and Christians in SE Asia today oppose exploitation of children and the sex trade. Many of these evils involve powerful interest and big profits. Opposition to them can draw much hostility.

Do Christians suffer little local hostility because we are largely silent in the public square? Do we leave our faith behind when we share in public debate on moral and social issues? Can we do this? Some years back a non-Christian man wrote of how he took his religious values with him into public debate and how that enriched the debate. That’s a good point. If our identity is Christian we should be respectfully Christian on public issues. Who are we, if we leave our Christian identity behind in public debate?

We are called to be salt and light (Mat 5:13). Let’s not lose our saltiness and dim God’s light by fitting into the world so well that no one notices who we are.

David Burke