I've A Feeling We're Not In A Christian Culture Anymore

Text: 1 John 3:13-18

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

 “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

These were the famous words spoken by Dorothy in the 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz.”  As you may recall, Dorothy was knocked unconscious during a tornado and ended up mysteriously transported to the magical Land of Oz. And soon after arriving in this new magical Land of Oz, Dorothy utters the now-famous quote,   

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” 

Now, I mention this because, over the last several decades, the Christian church in America has also been identifying with Dorothy. Somewhere along the line, we were wrapped up in a tornado-like storm and somehow transported to another culture. It is true; as we gaze out of the church's front doors, we come face-to-face with a world that is different and, frankly, overwhelming. This change in our cultural landscape is of seismic proportions, in which every area of society has been changed. Like Dorothy, we’ve got a feeling that we are no longer in the America we once knew. Like Dorothy, the Christian church has recently been saying, 

“I’ve a feeling that we’re not in a Christian culture anymore.” 

Now, as many of you already know, the Christian church used to be in a position of influence in society. 

In other words, the church was embraced and supported by culture. This resulted in a society that understood the basics of the Christian story. Words like ‘grace, atonement, and Trinity’ were understood in a Biblical context. Most people understood the fundamentals of Christianity, even if they did not attend church. Furthermore, people inside and outside of the church would seek out the pastor for assistance with input in life’s issues, and the church was historically placed at the center of the city with its steeple rising above the trees so that the cross could cover the rooftops of houses. Overall there was a uniform and common foundation for understanding life. In spiritual conversations, you could begin with the assumption that those around you understood basic Biblical phrases and terms. 

And so, there is no doubt about it that Christianity has enjoyed a relatively smooth ride these last two hundred-plus years in the good ol’ USA. Christians and even Pagans have tipped their hats to Pastors, Sundays have been respected with Blue Laws, and tax exemptions have been given to churches. We Christians have had it easy. Over the last two centuries, a person could be a Christian and not really have to suffer any consequences from the state or from pagans in society. To be a Christian these last two hundred-plus years really has not cost anything. No major suffering; no persecution; no mocking; no attacks; and no government fines or lawsuits.   

This is all changing, though. We are no longer in Kansas; we are no longer in a Christianized culture. In this new culture, we have seen dramatic changes as prayer has been removed from school, the Ten Commandments removed from courthouses, and the name of God stricken from the public sphere. Abortion is viewed as a right; same-sex marriage is now the norm. And for the church? Instead of being respected, Christians are now labeled bigots and haters, with lawsuits and government mandates stomping on religious freedom. Right before our eyes, the church and Christianity have been kicked out of the public sphere, shamed, and labeled. This has resulted in a Christian voice that is often not heard, sought out, or respected. Furthermore, the Christian story has been lost in our culture as well. 

While this may be disheartening for you and me to hear, it should not surprise us. In our reading from the Epistle of 1 John, the Apostle John tells you and me that we should not be caught off guard when the world hates us as Christians. In fact, Jesus in the Gospel of John tells us as well that if a godless world hates you and me, we are to remember that it got its start hating Jesus. For example, after Jesus’ birth, King Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem to slaughter children in order to exterminate the Christ-child. Years later, as Jesus began His ministry, He told the religious leaders about their sins, and as a result, they began to hate Him, plot against Him, and eventually killed Him. What harm did Jesus do to the world? Nothing at all, except point out the reality of sin and then speak Truth into ears! However, the world would not have this and repaid Him with fierce wrath, bitter hatred, and death on a cross. 

Dear friends, if you live on the world’s terms, the world will love you as one of its own. 

But since you have passed from death to life – since you have been snatched from the kingdom of darkness unto Christ, you should not be surprised by persecution, hatred, and scorn from the world. 

 Let me try and be as blunt as possible; the cozy, comfortable life that the church has experienced in America for the last two hundred years is not the standard but the exception. Historically and Biblically speaking, being a Christian typically does not include roses and quiet walks on the beach, but rather, it includes a thorny cross and suffering.

Baptized Saints, again, do not be surprised when the world hates you. We should learn to expect it and not be astonished and caught off guard when the world treats us the way that it treated Jesus. 

But this is where the problem exists – we don’t like persecution. We do not like being hated by the world. It makes us uncomfortable. 

We want it like the good ol’ days. 

But dear friends, those good ol’ days were the exception, not the norm. We are not in Kansas anymore. We need to come to terms with the fact that the Christian-friendly version of America has perhaps sailed, leaving us with a world that will hate you and me as Christians. 

And so, again, we shouldn’t be surprised when the world hates us. Instead, let the world anger, let the devil spread his fear, and the world burn with fury. And you, dear Christians, do not be surprised by the world’s hate but take comfort, for you are safe in the ark of Christ’s church. Indeed, from Christ’s Church, know that you have nothing to fear, for Jesus has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His mighty fortress – His church. Hear this blessed flock! The Holy Spirit through the Word is your Comforter against terror, your Truth against lies, and your Witness against tyranny. You are not alone. We – the church – are the bride of Christ, and Christ protects His bride! No matter how bad it gets. We will not be abandoned.

Blessed baptized saints, the fight that we find ourselves in is not to get back to Kansas – to somehow get back to a Christianized culture to avoid persecution, hate, and attacks from the world. But instead, the goal is to remain and abide in Christ, who calls us out of darkness into light.   

And so, regardless of the culture or age that we find ourselves in, nothing changes! If there is favor from the world, it is all about Christ for you, me, and our neighbor. If there is hate from the world, it is all about Christ for you, me, and our neighbor. Nothing changes! Whether the world is kind or cruel to the church – it does not matter.   

Therefore, Baptized Saints be confident in the midst of coming persecution. Stand firm and do not fear the Land of Oz or the Wicked Witch – do not fear the evil foe. But rather, receive and confess Christ-crucified for the forgiveness of sins in season and out of season. Receive and confess Christ-crucified whether the church grows or declines, whether we are persecuted or embraced. Receive and confess Christ-crucified when it is popular and when it is not; when it is politically correct and when it is politically incorrect. 

In the month and years to come, the devil and the world may attack us, but they will not overcome us as Baptized Saints. We might die, but we will not fall away. The Lord keeps His own. Jesus did not die in vain and will not give up on you and me. He will not let the devil and the world stand between you and Him. He is with you to the very end of the age, regardless of the season of life we find ourselves in. Again, whether the church is favored or scorned, it does not matter, and we shall not be surprised, for the Lord does not change and does not bow to the kingdom of darkness. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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