It has been a rough season for the Church. My Facebook and news feeds are full of horrific stories of churches being closed in Algeria, buildings torn down in China and Syria, with Christians arrested or killed. From West Africa to the Middle and Far East, the Church is not just caught in the crossfire of conflict, but is a target of intentional acts of destruction and violence.
These attacks are not the only kind, however, as we look at countries like the United States and Canada, those of Western Europe and Australia all facing a barrage of open ridicule by leaders, attempts to change laws on religious freedom, and accusations of bigotry and abuse in public and private. With every slap, every accusation, the Church is tempted to compromise, reduce her footprint and grow quiet in witness.
That’s when a voice from Down Under rose like a melody to my ears this week. It came from the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, as he addressed the 51st Synod of the Diocese of Sydney. Speaking of those who want the church to accept same-sex marriage, he said, “My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our Church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views – but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture.”
“Please leave us. We have far too much work to do in evangelizing Australia to be distracted by the constant pressure to change our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world.” As he finished his speech, he received a standing ovation.
While this would be his last speech as Archbishop, I’m encouraged that Dr. Davies at least made it a good one in support of the need for the Church to stand strong in the face of attack and threats to compromise.
The days of attack are far from over. In fact, the Bible makes clear that they will only get worse. Two things give me hope in the face of such a grim reality. The first and most important comes from Jesus, himself, who said:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [the words of Peter,”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.*
The Church that remains built on the proclamation of Jesus as Christ, Son of the living God, will prevail.
The second reality that gives me hope is that found in individual Christ followers throughout this world, who stand strong, day in and day out, in the face of threats, ridicule, abuse and death. From the leaders like Dr. Davies, to the student who is bullied for his faith — when they stand their ground for Christ, the Church is strengthened and empowered.
They can destroy a building, but not the Church. They can destroy an individual, but not a soul. The Church we know is one that will be gathered with Christ in eternity for the marriage feast of the Lamb. Hell can’t touch her now or then.
Pray for your church to stay the course. Ask God to help you do your part to build and encourage your church and the Church universal. Thank the Lord in anticipation of that great day when the Church will be gathered before him ultimately in Heaven. In the meantime, pray for those who are on the front lines of the fight against the powers of darkness.
Grace and Peace
*Matthew 16:18 (NIV).