This story appeared in the Toronto Star yesterday. It tells us that a school board in Ontario has banned the Gideons from giving out New Testaments in their schools. What made the headline was not the ban. School Boards are increasingly banning Christianity in one form or another. No. What made this a story was the response of those in favour of the Gideons being allowed to enter the schools and distribute the Scriptures. School Board members are saying that they feel threatened and one said a phone call amounted to a death threat.
I think that handing out Bibles wherever and whenever we have the opportunity is a great idea. We have a Gideon in our church who gives them out on the public sidewalk since they cannot be distributed in the schools. Do whatever you can to propagate the Gospel and have the smile of God upon you.
But never expect the approval of the world and do not think that the success of the Gospel depends on the culture’s acceptance of such things. What is the response of the Christian community to rejection of the Message and its messengers? It is not death threats and name calling. It certainly is not revenge. It is not even a class action law suit and whining about how other groups get better treatment than Bible believing Christians do.
The Apostle Peter, in just one place where he dealt with the matter of suffering for the sake of the Gospel said :
1 Peter 4:12-16
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Well, we could hardly call banning Bible distribution a “fiery trial” like Peter does about the suffering his first recipients were enduring, but he does say something very interesting. If you are a believer and you suffer at the hands of others make sure it isn’t because you deserve it. We are called to rejoice in suffering (verse 13), but only if the suffering is unjust. This is the exact opposite of how we think. If we do something wrong and get caught and suffer in some way, most of us admit that we are simply getting what we deserve. We can rejoice in deserved suffering. But do us wrong when we have done nothing wrong ourselves and there will be the devil to pay. “No” says Peter. When you suffer unjustly that is the time to rejoice. Our response is to be glorifying God (verse 16), faith (verse 19) and continuing to do good (verse 19). What we are never told anywhere is Scripture is to expect to be allowed to propagate the Gospel. We are never told that the answer to persecution is court. We are never told that returning hate with hate is the solution to the banning of evangelistic efforts. To respond to injustice with the kind of thing people have been saying and threatening the Bluewater school board with is simply contrary to the Gospel. It is the exact opposite of what needs to be done in such situations.
The Christian response?
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The Christian response to the Bluewater School Board would be to take some of them out for lunch or buy them all a Tim’s card. It certainly would be to pray for their spiritual well being.
I Peter 3:9
9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
Sound a lot like what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t it?
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We are called to not be conformed to this world but transformed from it. We need to think of things other than church attendance and not committing the “big” sins as what separates us from ungodliness. Transformation includes reacting differently to hardship. If we react to injustice with hate mail or look to our political authorities to make sure that we get treated fairly, then we are conformed to this world big time. We wrestle not against flesh and blood and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. I know that those who write such letters as school board members received over this decision may not be written by genuine believers in Jesus Christ. But it worries me that they might be. The difference between Christians and non Christians has got to be more than what time we get up on Sunday morning.