30/04/10 A Matter of Wisdom and Vigilance...
Blessed are those who are persecuted.............."
In Daniel ch. 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were having a little trouble with the political correctness of the day. King Nebuchadnezzar had changed their job description along with every other official after the creation of a gold image that stood ninety foot high. When the band struck up everyone had to bow to this image and those who didn't soon found out the true meaning of a carbon footprint. Dissenters were pitched into the furnace that came with this installation.
Needless to say the take up for this new team building exercise was very high. No one wanted to die so they bowed and worshipped the idol. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were reported for not conforming with the new way of things. They were challenged on this point but refused to bow and worship. The rest you know or can read, but when the dust had settled the king promoted them and was impressed by their witness.
I could mention Daniel who had a similar run in with authority (or those who were manipulating it) and almost ended up as lion food. His fight was over the right to pray. Those who shaped the law for their own ends didn't return from their fact finding visit to the lion's den. In both cases those who resist persecution are well regarded and find blessing
For a number of years now there has been concern by some Church Leaders that Christianity is being persecuted here in UK. These Leaders of the UK churches sent an open letter a few weeks ago stating that the Christian Faith was under attack in a number of areas. Such conversations once concerned the usual suspects of China, Iraq, Vietnam etc. They still do, but situations here in the UK are leading some to question the tolerance of today's non believers. That said, some Atheists are insisting that the Church enjoys too much privilege in the Public Sphere and they intend to put an end to it. A number of stories have been big news and have stirred up some raw emotions. Christmas was renamed as Winter Fest by some Local Authorities; Christian Registrars were sacked for refusing to perform civil partnerships, Bed and Breakfast owners are under the spotlight at the moment and numerous cases of 'cross wearing workers' have tried to defend their 'right' to wear a crucifix/cross at work. Our reaction to these stories will vary I am sure depending on a view of secularism.
I am not going to plough through all of them but I would like to pose a question - who is leading these changes and why? When the majority of the Registrars went to work for the Registry their role was clear and it was not likely to change any time ever. Times did change surprisingly and quickly. When the change for civil partnerships came in most marriages remained conventional events and some Christian registrars were happy to do both. Why were dissenting Registrars not permitted to just do the heterosexual weddings and the births and deaths of the job. With the rise in secular wedding trade there is no shortage of business. Why did a change in the law to favour one group carry such power in the face of another.
In the case of workers wearing crosses I can't help but wonder about the wisdom of pursuing some of those cases. British Airways backed down when a check-in worker took them to task but recently the Royal Devon and Exeter won their case against a nurse. The R. D & E had tried to accommodate the nurse allowing the cross to be worn as a badge or on a chain from her uniform but no solution was agreeable to the nurse. Scripture has something to say in the position of the Registrars but it doesn't back the wearing of the cross in quite the same way. Jesus talked about taking up our cross, he didn't say we had to wear it on a silver chain around our neck. The cost of the hearing, the adverse publicity and the challenge to a PCT that had tried to resolve the problem served no good purpose. The case was not founded on a biblical requirement. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were challenged to do something they could not do because of Scripture and that was to bow in worship to something other than God. Daniel was seen praying and he didn't deny it but he could not deny God. In both these cases the men triumphed but the stories focus on agendas. We need to look very carefully at some of those leading the modern agenda, the National Secular Society are a seriously angry crowd who seem obsessed not so much with ending religion but with Christianity. Their website gives a chilling insight into what could lie ahead, it certainly shows what has been going on for too long.
This whole matter requires wisdom and vigilance, it requires us to make a strong case when we are under persecution and to hold our tongue when something is our problem and not God's problem. We don't want persecution to develop but we should bear in mind that we do not know the meaning of the word compared to what others face in the world today I pray that we will not find out here in the UK.