How should Christians respond when being canceled by the culture?
Nathan Jones: In the last few weeks, the world has witnessed to its utter dismay social media silencing presidents, shutting up Conservatives, and canceling Christians. And, the list of those being canceled continues to expand. Whistleblowers sitting in on secret Big Tech meetings have revealed that these monopolies plan on broadening their restrictions and shutting down a lot more people. We now live in a time period defined as the Cancel Culture.
Tim Moore: Before we look at the answer to that question, we must point out that there has long been a precedent for Christians being “canceled” by the culture.
Lessons from the New Testament
Nathan Jones: We can look back to the beginnings of the Church in the first century. We read in Acts 4 how just after Pentecost the Apostles went out into Jerusalem preaching about Jesus Christ crucified and having resurrected from the dead. In a panicked response, the elite religious leaders of that day — the Pharisees — dragged the Apostles before the Sanhedrin.
Verse 18 tells the story, “So they [the Sanhedrin] called them [the Apostles] and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” And verses 19-20 reveal how they responded: “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'” The Apostles strongly believed they must continue to speak because God’s authority was higher than man’s authority.
Tim Moore: The ruling elite of that time were making an effort to cancel the followers of Christ. As a matter of fact, in the very next chapter, in Acts chapter 5, somebody saw that the Apostles were still out and about preaching, so the Sanhedrin called their captain and ordered him to bring the Apostles before the magistrates and the chief priest yet again. They chastised them in verse 28, “We gave you strict orders not to continue this teaching in this Name, and yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us!”
Yet again, Peter and the other Apostles reiterated their stance in verse 29, “We must obey God rather than men.” Enraged, the religious elite made their ultimate intent to cancel the Apostles known in verse 33, “When they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.”
This story demonstrates that there have been people all the way back since the beginning of the Church Age who have wanted to silence Christians, even to the point of killing them if necessary in order to shut them up.
Lessons from Church History
Nathan Jones: We can look at the Christians suffering in the Roman Empire up until Emperor Constantine. For nearly 300 years of Church history, the persecution of Christians went from bad to worse. Christians were used as torches lighting up the Caesars’ gardens. They were thrown to the hungry lions in the arenas. These represent the extreme cases of living in a cancel culture.
For the general Christian populace, they were cast out of the mainstream society economically. In some areas, the Romans were told they couldn’t buy from Christians, which is rather reminiscent of the treatment of the Jews during Nazi Germany. You don’t buy from Christians or risk becoming an outcast as well. Christians were also shut out of the political arena.
Society for the last 2,000 years throughout much of the world has been trying to cancel Christians and so end Christianity. Only during the last few hundred years have we in the West been living in this kind of pocket where Judeo-Christian values have allowed Christianity to flourish without challenge. But, for the rest of the world, and throughout much of history, the Church has been canceled everywhere it has reached.
Tim Moore: Christians escaping being persecuted by society has been a fairly recent phenomenon in Western culture. Even during the early years of the Reformation, if you dared to own a Bible, or for heaven’s sakes, print a Bible in a language that could be read by the masses, you would be put to death by being burned at the stake by, again, the religious elites. Christians for many centuries have endured great persecution. Long have Christians suffered under the attempts by the culture-controlling elites to cancel Christians and silence the Gospel message.
What has been the result of all of this persecution? The churches have thrived! Christianity is thriving today in places like Communist China, which has been trying hard for decades to stamp out Christianity. Despite harsh persecution, the Lord is bringing into His own those who belong to Him.
Now here we stand in the United States and we are feeling this rising fear that the cultural elites in our country have begun to cancel us. They’ve started by kicking Christians off of social media platforms, such as eliminating Twitter feeds. But, ask yourself, “What kind of threat is that really?”
Nathan Jones: In truth, it is really no threat at all. Such an attack on our religious freedom and freedom of speech may seem scary at first, but Church history has also taught us that every time society has tried to cancel Christianity, it makes Christians look like the victims. And, what do people like? They end up rooting for the underdog.
The world watches closely to the way that Christians behave. For instance, before abortion became medically accessible, the Romans were notorious for taking their unwanted babies and throwing them into the fields to let them die. But, the Christians would go around and collect the babies and create orphanages and take care of the discarded children. Society looked at that odd behavior and took notice that there was something different about these people. Christians actually loved other people! In pagan societies, the people could care less about other people. They witnessed the love of Christ being demonstrated. That love drew the lost straight to the Gospel.
We all know from history that the Roman Empire inevitably collapsed, not only due to their own rampant immorality, but because of the rise of Christianity. And so, wherever there is the persecution of Christians in the land, Christianity grows.
Let’s also look at China as a modern-day example. Back in the 1800s, missionaries traveled to China and planted little Gospel seeds, that is, until the missionaries were pushed out by the government. Today, there are millions upon millions of Christians living in China. The more they are persecuted, the more other people are attracted to the Gospel, and the bigger the Church grows. And, as it grows, the more Christianity looks like a threat to the ruling elites, and so the more the ruling elite ramp up the pressure. So, it is interesting how God uses persecution to grow His Church.
Endure for the Cause
Tim Moore: I think back to what the writer of Hebrews had to say in 12:1-2. “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with the endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Who for the joy was set before Him, enduring the cross, despising the shame, and then sat down at the right hand of God.”
Then the author goes on in verse 4 to pose this observation, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” He’s not talking about reacting to the Cancel Culture by running out and shedding other people’s blood and so bring about our own persecution. Rather, how many of us in this country right now have been persecuted to the point of being imprisoned, beaten, and enduring violence so that our own blood is shed?
Surely, I believe the open, violent persecution of Christians will inevitably happen in this country. Already there have been some Christians fined and jailed for their faith, and there will be many more coming in the days ahead. But firstly, attempts will grow to ostracize, silence, rob Christians of their livelihood, and shut down our churches.
The questions I would pose then is, “Are we prepared to endure any fate for the cause of Christ?” As a soldier in the Air Force, I took an oath to give my life in service for the cause of patriotism and loyalty to the United States. But, I ask myself, “What am I willing to endure, or to be subjected to, for the cause of Christ?” As a Christian, I believe the same level of loyalty is deserving to Jesus Christ as it was serving in the military or in any other kind of profession.
Nathan Jones: Absolutely! We’ve got to remember that as Christians we were bought, we were paid for a price, by Jesus Christ who shed His own blood so that we might be saved. Therefore, we are His. Our lives aren’t our lives to give, rather they are Jesus’ lives to give. And, He uses those lives to bring other people to know Him as Savior. So, from the eternal perspective, millions upon millions of people will come to know Jesus as their Savior by God’s work through believers’ lives demonstrating His love and long-suffering. This little bit of suffering we endure today is nothing compared to the eternity of joy that we have lying ahead of us in Heaven.
Tim Moore: We may soon endure much more persecution as believers in this country. Actually, I’m sure we will. So, the question left us is, “What are you prepared to endure for the cause of Christ?” I hope we all think about that. I hope we all will prayerfully weigh in. And, I hope you will be prepared in your heart for whatever the Lord has in store for you so that His name may be proclaimed and that He may be glorified.