The spiritual darkness settling over the culture continues to intensify.
An Air Force colonel argued Monday in court that a half-dozen adultery charges against him should be thrown out because the military's law banning extramarital sex discriminates against heterosexuals. Col. Eugene Marcus Caughey is headed for an August court-martial on charges of rape, assault, taking a dirty selfie and the adultery counts. He was in court Monday for a formal reading of the charges and to argue pretrial motions. (Story is here.)
Meanwhile, two legal rulings reinforce the American court system’s growing determination that Christians must not be allowed, under threat of penalty and punishment, to live as they believe in business or in public life. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court left standing a lower court decision that Washington state pharmacists who are Christian must violate their faith in order to practice their profession by providing abortion pills on demand. The second decision came from a federal judge in Mississippi with a reputation for ruling against Christians who stated that county clerks in the state cannot use their own religious beliefs to excuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples.
There are some Christians who argue that this is the "best" time for a Christian to be alive because powerful testimony is provided by the growing contrast between Christianity and an increasingly hedonistic culture. While there is some truth to that statement, such an attitude is idealistic naivete. Using that misguided logic, Christians suffering under the Islamic State must be even more "better off" than we are in the West.
There is a sobering passage in the New Testament:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. (2 Tim 3:1-5, ESV).
The NIV translates the first verse saying there will be "There will be terrible times in the last days". The KJV translates it "in the last days perilous times shall come". The EXB translates it "In the last days there will be ·many troubles [ difficult/terrible times]".
Christians that fail to heed the gathering cultural storm clouds and the warnings of Scripture, are in for a rough time down the road. Almost 3 years ago (well before homosexuality became the darling stepchild of the progressives), I wrestled here with a difficult question. As I wrote then,
When does a Christian say "enough" and leave?
Some would argue that it is "never" time to leave and that Christians have an obligation to stay and be a witness (i.e., Dietrich Bonhoeffer who did not leave Nazi Germany during WW2 and was martyred for his faith.) But to apply such a mandate carte blanche to every Christian in every situation is both unwise and unbiblical. While there are obvious arguments for sometimes the need to stay as a witness, there are also some strong counter-arguments that at a certain point, it is time to leave - especially if others are involved for whom you are responsible (i.e., your children).
In 70 AD, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions of Titus after a devastating, protracted siege of the city. Josephus records that more than 1,100,000 Jews were slaughtered and nearly 100,000 were taken captive. Of those spared death: thousands were enslaved and sent to toil in the mines of Egypt, others were dispersed to arenas throughout the Empire to be butchered for the amusement of the public. The Temple's sacred relics were taken to Rome where they were displayed in celebration of the victory. The Jewish temple was burned and completely destroyed. Josephus also records that the famine was so severe during the Roman siege that mothers were reduced to eating the deceased remains of their own children.
Yet, the Roman historian Eusebius records that virtually all of the Christians fled Jerusalem before the Roman legions encircled the city:
"The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and his apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers form the earth." (Eusebius, 3:5.)
Epiphanius of Salamis records:
"The Nazoraean sect exists in Beroea near Coele Syria, in the Decapolis near the region of Pella, and in Bashan in the place called Cocaba, which in Hebrew is called Chochabe. That is where the sect began, when all the disciples were living in Pella after they moved from Jerusalem, since Christ told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw because it was about to be besieged. For this reason they settled in Peraea and there, as I said, they lived. This is where the Nazoraean sect began." (Panarion 29:7:7-8)
"Their sect began after the capture of Jerusalem. For when all those who believed in Christ settled at that time for the most part in Peraea, in a city called Pella belonging to the Decapolis mentioned in the gospel, which is next to Batanaea and the land of Bashan, then they moved there and stayed.." (Panarion 30:2:7)
"For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis " (On Weights and Measures 15)
In the Old Testament, Lot chose to stay in Sodom despite gross iniquity that ultimately resulted in the judgment of God. As a result of his decision to stay, while he and his daughters were saved, they literally lost everything: their possessions, his daughters lost their husbands and Lot lost his wife. Why did Lot stay? One can only surmise that Lot stayed because he did not want to give up the financial prosperity that he apparently enjoyed there. Genesis 13 chronicles that Lot chose to live in the regions of Sodom because of the rich grassland that was there before the region was destroyed by God. The New Testament records that Lot recognized the sin of the city and was distressed by it (2 Pet 2:7-8), but apparently not enough to leave. Lot stayed - when he clearly should have left - and it cost him dearly.
The story of the most famous shipwreck of all - Titanic - is especially tragic when you understand that it did not carry sufficient lifeboats for everyone yet many of the launched lifeboats were not full as the majority of the passengers were initially reluctant to leave the warm, comfortable ocean liner for a rickety, open, small lifeboat adrift on a freezing ocean. For instance, the first lifeboat to launch, Lifeboat 7 from the starboard side only carried 24 people, despite having a capacity of 65 (two additional people later transferred to Lifeboat 7 from Lifeboat 5). However, it was Lifeboat 1 that carried the fewest people - only seven crew and five passengers (a total of 12 people) despite having a capacity for 40. Some 1500 perished when a significant number of those could have been saved had they recognized it was time to leave.
Unquestionably, the decision to leave can be difficult, especially if one has been there a long time - perhaps even their entire life. But to simply accept a constantly deteriorating cultural environment without ever prayerfully considering if/when "it's time to go" is unwise.
Romans chapter 1 indicates that people (and by extension, cultures) can reach a point in their willful rebellion against God where He "lets them go" to bear the full fruit and consequence of their insurrection. Noteworthy, it highlights homosexuality as a key signpost that a person/culture is in the endgame of their apostasy. Unless God has clearly and unequivocally made clear in protracted prayer that one should stay, continuing to sojourn in such an environment is foolhardy - especially if one is responsible for others.
Even if the correct decision is to stay amidst a culture in free-fall deterioration, a wise Christian will make practical preparation (both physical and spiritual) to cope with the intensifying darkness and persecution. Ask the Christians living under the Islamic State.
In closing, Ps 37:1 exhorts that Christians, "Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong". We can experience the peace that passes understanding even in the most horrendous of circumstances.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.… (Phil 4:6-8, ESV)