Courage for this cultural moment

“He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:7-8)

Near the end of Revelation, John, the author of the book, records God speaking about the new heavens and the new earth, the final destination for all who have trusted in Jesus for salvation. In verse 8 of chapter 21, God shifts his focus to the lake of fire, the final destination for all who have not trusted in Jesus. Among the types of people He lists are some of the usual suspects: the unbelieving, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the idolaters. But the first kind of people listed are surprising: the cowardly. Why would that be on the list, let alone listed first?

In recent years, I feel like the answer has become more apparent. After all, when the surrounding culture is essentially Christian, or at least friendly to Christians, it does not take much courage to follow Jesus and proclaim the gospel. But over the past couple of decades, there has been a profound cultural shift, as our culture is more hostile to Biblical truth and to those who call themselves Christian. Christians are seen by many as oppressors, as part of the problem, resisting the “live and let live” attitude that so many want to proclaim. With every year that passes, it feels like it takes more courage to be a Christian.

When John wrote Revelation, the surrounding culture was even more hostile to Christians, actively persecuting and killing many who claimed the name of Jesus. Revelation was written to encourage the persecuted church that they were part of a larger spiritual battle, that Jesus would eventually be victorious over their persecutors, and that the Christians who were suffering would be vindicated in the end. On that day, God would wipe away every tear from their eye, and there would be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). Evil would be destroyed, their wounds would be healed, and God would dwell with them forever.

But on this side of eternity, life is a battle for the Christian who lives in a hostile culture. And it will require courage to stay faithful to Jesus and proclaim the gospel and Biblical truth to people who oppose it. I know that I have prayed more regularly over the past few years for courage, that I might crucify my people-pleasing nature and choose to please the Lord, even if it offends or upsets my neighbor.

Today, I encourage you to take to heart Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:28-33: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”
Lord, give us courage for this hour. May we walk in faithfulness to you, speaking your truth in love and not disowning you in order to be accepted by the crowd.

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