Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why Destroying Christian Symbols Won't Work



            God wants His people to have strong encouragement. Particularly, when the mission of the church to spread the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus is met with aggressive hostility, God wants His people to know for certain that He has got this. His resolve remains unchanged. His plan will not fail. Our hope for the future is rock solid.

            The church, historically, has gone through extensive periods of hardship and opposition. Right from the get-go, it was understood that the way of Jesus was going to be radically counter to the patterns and priorities of every culture into which Christianity would be sent. We would not get a warm welcome. Our Christian mission began with these words of Jesus: "In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."[1] Jesus told his disciples quite frankly, "If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."[2]

            In the past few weeks, the media has been showing pictures of the radical Islamist group, ISIS, tearing down ancient Christian monuments in Iraq and Syria (monuments destroyed). Their agenda is to rid their "caliphate" of any vestiges of what they consider idolatry. I have friends who have lived and worked in Syria and I am sure that it pains them deeply to see the challenges that now face their Christian brethren who continue to live there. Of course, in their own way, secularists have been doing the same thing in the Western world for a few decades now. Any public symbols of the Christian faith have been progressively and systematically removed from the public square by the proponents of a religion-less secular philosophy.  Christian presence is increasingly unwelcome in institutions of higher education and in public discourse about morality and justice.

            The big mistake that is made in all of this, of course, is that promoting the destruction of the symbols of the Christian faith is akin to seeking to stop the effects of the sun by burning every painting of it that you can find. When you have destroyed every art gallery and melted down every brass sculpture of the brightest light in the heavens, you will still get up the next morning to its rising. The power of the Christian faith lies not in its symbols but in the risen and reigning Son of God. That Son reigns on behalf of His people. He lives and rules safe and secure in the heavens far beyond the reach of His enemies and far above every power on earth, philosophical, political, military, or religious.

            For any religion or any anti-Christian philosophy to attempt to destroy the church of Christ fully and finally, it would have to do several things. It would have to persuade God Himself to turn on His people and to break the covenant that He made with Abraham to bless Him, to make him a mighty nation and through His descendant, to bless all the nations of the earth. This is impossible because God cannot break His Word. He will not lie. The faulty notion that many people have is that the church is merely a human creation. It is, in fact, the handiwork of God Himself. It exists because of His will and by His doing and to the praise of the glory of His grace.

            Secondly, they would have to climb up to heaven and destroy Jesus who has been appointed by God to rule and to reign on behalf of all those who have put their faith in Him. That, of course, would be difficult for many reasons. First, you can't get there from here. Well, you can, but the only road to heaven is through death. Then, according to the Scriptures,  if you were to die, you would be judged by Jesus on the grounds of whether or not you put your faith in Him. That is one of His main post-resurrection responsibilities. The Bible declares that "it is appointed once for a person to die and then to face the judgment."[3] Also, if theoretically, you could get there, you would have to destroy the very One who has already triumphed over death. The Bible tells us that He has been raised to an indestructible life by God because of His perfect obedience, even obedience to death on a cross. In other words, He can't die. Therefore, you would simply be a pesky arrogant gnat buzzing around the One whom God has given all authority in heaven and in earth. So, you would be attacking almighty power and offending almighty God. It is not wise to tick God off and there is nothing that ticks God the Father off more than the dishonour of His Son.

            The only other thing, one might do is to try to persuade Jesus to abandon His position of authority on behalf of the church and to persuade Him to come work for His enemies. Aren't there more devout people who would show themselves far more worthy of such a King? Could someone persuade Jesus to leave His post? Satan made that offer before the crucifixion and He wouldn't take it then (see Matthew 4). Why would He abandon those for whom He was willing to die and whom He purchased with His blood on the cruel cross?  Some might argue that the church isn't worth it with all its flaws and failings. It is sinful. It is corrupt. It is weak and unwell. Why stick with a sickly bride? The answer is because He loves her and delights in her. Is it not clear how much that He loves His church in the very fact that He died to make her His own? Do we think that after He poured out His blood to make her white as snow that He would take lightly any criticisms and insults about her flaws? Just to utter the suggestion that He betray His bride would provoke a holy protective anger that we could not begin to imagine. Jesus loves His church and will never leave her nor forsake her.

            I write this for the encouragement of Christians as we see and continue to experience grave threats and increasing hostility. There is far more than I have written here that is meant to elevate our confidence in God's commitment to His church. God will not and cannot abandon the church to its enemies. Jesus will not leave His people or His post. The fuel for my reflection here came in part from Hebrews 6. There the Bible reads "So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."[4] God's purpose is unchangeable. God's desire is that we would take strong encouragement from the fact that He has made a promise and secured it through Jesus. Jesus is our anchor, our guarantee and He has entered heaven on our behalf. He ever lives to intercede for us.
            When the symbols of the history of Christianity fall all around us, and the enemies of the church roar and rattle their sabers, we must always remember, they can't bring the sun down from the sky and they won't bring the Son down from His throne. As long as Jesus Christ lives and reigns, and as long as God is One who never lies and always keeps His Word, His people are forever secure. Take strong confidence in this.




[1] John 16:33

[2] John 15:18-19

[3] Hebrews 9:27


[4] Hebrews 6:17-20

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