What if I told you that in a part of Australia, it has been made illegal to pray in a particular way? I’m not kidding. Maybe you would hope that within the response to that linked article that there would be some concern that this was possibly an overreach? Read the comments on that article, and all there is is approval of the law and hatred of the church. Now, I do not mistake internet comments for the real world, but the almost completely one sided nature is perhaps something of a bellwether.
In my country things trend the same way. In October the Ozanne Foundation released the Cooper Report. In it, they call for the criminalisation of conversion therapy. Now I could talk about how the whole conversation therapy thing is a shell game – evoking imagery of extreme practices in order to ban simple prayer and any dissent from secular orthodoxy. Or maybe I could talk about the strangeness of attempting to ban consent to prayer in an age where consent itself is idolised? But appeal to reason really doesn’t matter, because there is no reasoning with this particular beast.
But surely this is extreme, banning prayer wouldn’t actually happen here? Maybe. Perhaps in the same way it didn’t happen in Australia? It’s extreme, right until the day it isn’t, right until the day when it becomes self-evident to most people, and to think otherwise makes you a bigot.
Look, it is here, it is right at the door. If not now, then imminently. Maybe you can dodge for a while longer. But we are at the point when we will have to, like Peter, say “we must obey God rather than men” and in so doing make a conscious choice to disobey antichristian laws because we obey higher laws.
Now, this is quite a high bar. Obeying the laws that governments enact is a Christian ethic – see Romans 13 v1-7. Maybe we disagree with the governments response on Covid, or how tax money is spent, or any number of public policy choices. But those kind of matters are within the competency of a secular authority to determine. But matters such as determining who can pray, and for what, is not. So we must start to ask ourselves, how should we respond in such a time as this? Richard Wurmbrand had some thought for that in Preparing for Underground Church. We need to steel ourselves to disobey antichristian laws when they arise, and face the consequences of doing so.
And do not imagine that wider society will save you from the excesses. I’ll tell you exactly how it will go down. There will be a minority who will actively drive the persecution, they will often be in the place of power. The majority will just do what they have to get along, and will avert their eyes. The media will do their part, suppressing any reporting and demonising the church.
Jesus didn’t say the world will love you, or will rescue you, or be kind to you. He did say, however, that He has overcome the world. So whatever they can throw at you, rejoice, for they threw it at Him too. And He overcame, and He calls us to the same – to be overcomers. In Him, we can become more than conquerors, and as light in the darkness we will have the opportunity to minister to the despised, the rejected, the unimportant, the powerless, the ones for whom Jesus died and longs to gather in to His barn. We will have that opportunity because we will be one of them.
There is nothing new here really in what I’m saying – but I call to warn of the coming storm while I am able, for any that will listen.
In my minds eye, I see myself at a church gathering on a beach. There is worship, there is food, there is activity, there is rest – a social hub. And we are still wearing summer clothes, basking in the fading gleams of the sunlight that remains. There are those of us on the edge of the gathering that see the storm clouds gathering high, the wind gusting, and we look at what’s coming and the seeming blindness of those on the beach – and we say please, please, please prepare! Prepare your people for what is right at the doorstep. Break out the sou’westers, batten down the hatches! Put away the party gear and gird yourself. Do not flee, but be prepared! In the times to come the aroma of Christ will repel some and attract other simply by its contrast. In the times to come, we will be paid in a new coin – the one side of which is inscribed Persecution, the other side Revival. It’s time to seriously consider, and count the cost of following Christ, before it becomes time to pay that cost in full.