There's Never Been a Better Time to Be a Christian
Editor's note: Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian minister in Australia. He delivered this address on September 7, 2017, at the Tasmanian launch of the Coalition for Marriage. Currently, Pastor Markham is defending himself against an anti-discrimination prosecution brought against him for his writings on marriage.
What a mess our poor nation is in. There is so much conflict, so much confusion, so much pain.
We have forgotten what a human being is. We have forgotten what male and female is. Men and women have forgotten how to have sex. We have forgotten how to marry. We have forgotten how to care for the children we bear. Children are taught that boys can be girls, and girls can be boys.
Our freedom to speak is dissolving before our eyes. Pastors are called before government tribunals for teaching the Bible. And Christian doctors who speak their mind are threatened with deregistration.
All this while marriage remains as yet un-redefined in our laws. Moreover, the Opposition Leader has promised that if marriage laws change, Christian businesses will have no protections for acting according to their conscience. If marriage is redefined there’ll be a relentless flood of deregistrations and prosecutions. And so there has never been a better time to be a Christian!
There are two reasons why I believe this is true. First, because we have the answer to what the world is crying out for. Our nation has been deceived. It does not know its right hand from its left. It is hurting and confused.
We have been told that divorce doesn’t matter, that sex outside of marriage is harmless, that pornography is harmless, that children don’t need their mums and dads, that gender is fluid, and that anyone who says anything different ought to be prosecuted. Millions have been hurt by these lies. But those who have been hurt are told that they shouldn’t feel hurt.
And so there has never been a better time to be a Christian—because we have the Bible. We have the Word of God, a bright light in the darkness. It shows us the wonderful truth that human beings are handmade by God; that he has breathed his breath of life into us; that we are made in his image with untold dignity, value, and purpose; that he makes us male and female—both in God’s image and likeness, and both with identical worth—and that together, female and male, we have the ability to make new life.
Yes, a human being is complete whether they are married or not, and Jesus Christ himself modeled this. Yet, God has given us marriage, to safeguard the creation of new life—a husband and wife committed to one another in an exclusive, lifelong relationship: caring for each other, and ensuring that their children will know and be loved by the people who gave them life.
There has never been a better time to be a Christian, because we get to tell people about God’s good plan, his plan which is best for men and women and the children that they may bear.
And above all, we get to tell the world about what marriage points to: the good news that Jesus Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her.
There’s a second reason why there’s never been a better time to be a Christian: We are beginning to experience the joy of persecution. When the first disciples were arrested for refusing to shut up about the resurrection of Jesus, they were beaten. It is easy to read those words: they were beaten, but what a dreadful thing to receive a beating.
How did they respond? What did they do as they limped away, or were carried away, bruised, bleeding, and in great pain?
The apostles left rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name of Jesus. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
When Martin Luther King Jr. led the protest against evil laws that segregated blacks and whites, and disadvantaged people for the color of their skin, he trained his people to protest without violence. He set the example himself, and they protested with self-possession, dignity, and peace. And in the same way we have disdained violent actions and violent words.
But Jesus takes us far beyond non-violence. When it comes to persecution, not only are we to disdain violence—we are to positively embrace joyfulness.
There is nothing trite about joyfulness. It is not about responding to attack with a smile. It is not really about smiling at all. It is about that deep and wide river of confidence, security, and peace that runs beneath the most hurtful attacks. It is the joy and peace that comes from believing Jesus when he said:
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Be joyful and rejoice, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:10-11; NIV)
How tempting to respond to insults and persecution with anger and bitterness. How tempting to strike back.
No, we will never be cowed into silence by persecution. And out of love for our community we will fight anti-discrimination laws that attack our basic human freedoms of expression, of conscience, and of religion.
But we will not be depressed. We will not be bitter. We will not be frightened. We will be angered for the lies that hurt our community, but we will never be angry for ourselves. Instead, we will respond to personal attacks with an unshakable joy, confidence, and peace. For the persecution shows that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, and with the presence of Jesus.
There has never been a better time to be a Christian, and I can speak from personal experience. My colleague David Gee and I have been summoned to explain ourselves before our State’s Anti-discrimination Commissioner, mainly for things that we have said in defense of marriage.
And this tiny bit of pressure, this tiny bit of persecution—I don’t even begin to compare it with what our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis in North Korea, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and other very dangerous places—has brought the wider church community much closer together. There is much more prayer. There is much more encouragement.
And it has given us opportunities to speak about Jesus to a far wider body of people. Having been threatened with prosecution, we now get to tell our nation about our Savior Jesus Christ, and that is worth a thousand prosecutions.
That’s why I say: there’s never been a better time to be a Christian. Many lament that the debate over marriage is not an even fight. Those who want to redefine marriage have the opinion polls on their side; they have Facebook, Apple, and Airbnb on their side; they have the country’s fifty top ad agencies on their side; they have the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader on their side; they have Fairfax and the ABC and SBS on their side; and they even have Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman, and Qantas on their side.
And it’s not fair!
It’s not fair, because that’s all they’ve got.
We have truth on our side. We have Jesus on our side: the Creator, Immanuel, God With Us. And so when it comes to the fight between truth and error, and the world versus the Church, it is not an even fight. It is not even close.
There has never been a better time to be a Christian, because although in God’s providence the word marriage may come to be redefined in our laws, and although it might be counterfeited or obscured for a time, the thing itself—the beautiful institution that God created—cannot be lost.
God’s people can seize this moment. We can seize this opportunity to speak out in love to protect our nation’s understanding of marriage.
Do not fear. Pray, and tell people about Jesus with courage, passion, and compassion. And when you are opposed, let your peace and joy be seen, knowing that you walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and with the presence of Jesus—God’s Son and the Savior of the World.
Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian pastor in Hobart, Tasmania. He blogs at Campbell Markham: Thoughts and Letters.