Battling to Win, Even the Losing Battles

We have to learn to define victory and defeat.  It is easy to take the word of the powers that be that the victories and defeats are what they tell us they are.  We have learned from childhood to trust those in charge.  We have learned to conform to the common will. 


This can lead to confusion when we find ourselves fighting the common will.  That is where I am right now.  The battle for religious freedom in the western world is rapidly becoming an uphill battle. The more secularized our culture becomes the less value we see in the ancient religious traditions or any religious tradition at all.  The more secularized we become the less likely we are to even tolerate those who live their lives according to any faith or principles thereby formed.


In Germany that is the battle.  It is a battle between secularism and religion, particularly Christianity.  The first level of the battle is against the most compromised among us.  These folks are the home schoolers.  They are often from families larger than the European norm—sometimes as many as 10 or 12 children in one family.  Often they have a very fundamental, almost backward approach to life and their religion—even when they are educated well.  Often they do not look as good as their more modern neighbors.  These are easy marks.


When they are persecuted few care.  In fact, many people believe they have it coming.  It is the government choosing the weakest among us to attack.  One would think the Germans would be weary of such governmental pograms.  Yet, here we are, the German government battling less than 400 families who are choosing to educate their children at home.


Why is this battle going on?  There are several reasons.  First, this is the continuing battle to secularize the west.  It is about the dominance of non-Christian beliefs—the rise of humanism to the pinnacle of all faiths.  Do not be deceived, we are not currently wining this battle.  You can see it in the declining influence of the church in America. 


Sundays were once sacred in America.  Now, our church attendance is dropping rapidly.  It will not be long before we are at European levels of church attendance.  Now, I do not believe that attending church makes you a Christian any more than walking into a McDonald’s makes you a hamburger, but it was a standard of measurement.


Our Christian foundations have nearly been completely destroyed and few of us have noticed it.  We have ministries that lead us.  They are led by men and women who are only concerned with how to take our money from our pockets and get it into their pockets.


I was recently in Strasbourg, France where I heard an American tourist tell a French waiter that “American churches only want your paper money, they don’t want your coins.”  What a sad testimony—we are looked at as no different from anyone else in the world.  There are no changes in how we live our lives.  There is no difference in what we value.  There is no difference in how we measure success.


The truth of the matter is the statement about what American churches want is more like the phrase from the grocery store—“paper or plastic.”  Many of our churches are taking credit cards to make your gift.  Welcome to the new world!


We have let the secularized society reach into the church and take hold in our thought patterns and lifestyles.  Now, I am not saying that we need to return to a fundamentalism that does not allow women to wear pants or cut their hair.  I do not believe that women should be seen and not heard.  I do not believe that a woman’s place is in the home only.  I do not believe there is anything more sacred about the King James Bible than other more coherent translations of the Bible.


I am not talking about rushing out onto the streets and preaching the good news that everyone but us is going to hell.  In fact, I do not think that is the best way to go about being fishers of men.  


I have been fishing many times.  I never went fishing with bait that fish did not like.  I never used rocks to try and catch fish.  I never used an empty hook to catch fish.  I always found something to put on the hook that I had a reasonable expectation the fish would like.  Granted, I do not understand how fish enjoy the taste of worms, but they seem to enjoy it.  Catfish enjoy raw chicken livers, I do not understand that, but it works so I use bait that attracts the fish. Maybe they are so hungry that it does not matter what it tastes like.


I do not sit in my boat with a rock at the end of the line complaining that the fish are being hard headed or ornery.  I do not blame the fish for not biting.  I change the bait.


Yet we see people on the streets preaching the good news that you are going to hell, or that your wife is a harlot because she is wearing pants and Jesus wants to save you.  And then we cannot understand why there is not a more positive response to our ministry.  Jesus said he would make us fishers of men, not stoners of men, not haters of men, not sowers of strife.   


While we cannot compromise the message, we have to find a way to present it in such a way that it can be received by those who are our target audience.  The Apostle Paul wanted to become all things to all men that he might win some. How much more do we need to take the same approach?


When Paul came into Athens he looked through the city and found a way to minister to the people of Greece from their own folklore and religious traditions.  He did not come in with both barrels of condemnation blasting.  He “reasoned” with them and sat with them in their market square, presenting them with a way to find God through the fog of religiosity in Athens. 


Some people need to be pulled from the flames.  Others need to be loved into the kingdom. 


We need to have the wisdom and the humility to discern the difference and govern ourselves accordingly.


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C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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