When God-centred people see a culture heading for what they consider to be a cliff, there are a number of responses they can choose from. They include anger, fear, hiding the head in the sand or taking to a monastery which may be a nice villa in Tuscany or The Lake District.
Retiring to a harmonious garden, which contradicts the fracturing outer world, can be comforting, for a short time. However, any coherence ends at one's front gate, since the world is increasingly in pain and distress. Christians cannot ignore the cries of the needy.
God has a specific purpose even in "the new order". God's methods and ways are not always for visible good. God is not tame: He can fight dirty. The disintegration of society, order, families and relationships is His most powerful weapon against sin. In the Old Testament, He also used bad weather. Is He speaking through our own poor weather, our failed harvests, slug-eaten flowers and food and thwarted holiday plans? The authors of The Book of Common Prayer thought so.
God uses change to create a clear cut divide between what is of Him - and what is completely against Him. In times when the church has been persecuted, it was easy, as in Nazi Germany to identify those who were real believers, and those who were not. People knew them by their deeds and their associates. They knew who to trust: it became clear. When the battle gets fiercest, the traitor flees but the faithful, noble warrior stands and fights. This purification by itself can draw people to Himself. For this reason, China's churches grew exponentially under the severe Mao persecutions. Today in North Korea, history teaches that the Gospel of Salvation is doing a mighty "undermining work" through prayer, blood and sacrifice. Eventually, it will overcome at the very gates of hell.
In 1989, a Refomed pastor, Laslo Tokes in Timisoara, Romania with no weapons but truth and faith, had woken up a whole people through speaking the truth. As a result, they became willing to lay down their lives for freedom. Together, through the power of prayer and courage, they triggered eventually the downfall of mighty Soviet Communism. As someone has said "History keeps repeating itself" because people fail to learn that nothing can quench the advance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and the power of prayer.
Being a Christian can mean being the most despised or being enemy number one. One thinks of the fascist, sadistic, lawless Roman Empire and of Stalin's atheist Russia. There is a new book out called "Christianophobia" by Rupert Shortt, a journalist of the Times Education Supplement. It covers the severe persecutions around the world but Christians even in the UK feel increasingly attacked. Many sense that today, more than ever, one is required to be salt and light in a fast darkening world. As British Foreign Secretary, Edward Grey, famously said just before the First World War "The lamps are going out all over Europe and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime". We may not, in our lifetimes.
Many, in fear, have already watered down the Gospel to good deeds, not creeds. But the teaching of Scripture is the core of the faith, always. The proclamation of the gospel must include the war on sin: it is primary. This includes the statement of universal human depravity, universal condemnation by God, clarity on the uselessness of our "goodness" to save us from righteous Wrath and the "filth"of self-righteousness before a Holy, perfect God with standards of acceptability way beyond our reach. Realisation of our true spiritual condition helps us see the grace and mercy offered only at the Cross of Christ and to find ourselves lovingly restored, if chastened, to God Himself.
The Church does not waver in times of stress from sharing these life-giving messages. One thinks of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Reformation martyrs, the Apostles, the female Roman martyrs facing the ravening lions, and most of all of Christ Himself. Preaching this message does not mean believers should not care for the most vulnerable who are increasing bereft. However, in caring and praying for them, they must still preach the true Gospel above - and entrust the rest to a warrior God.