Now, more than ever, Christian citizens are worried and distressed. As the world grows increasingly decadent, it becomes ever more hostile and decreasingly tolerant of Christianity.
This is not new, but it is on the rise. Decades ago, the darkness entered pop music; then, onto the silver screen. Next it invaded the airwaves. Worse, it has entered our classrooms and actively seeks to uproot and supplant the ethics that Christian parents are working to impart to their children. Today, it practically permeates all public and political life.
It is not only that many people are corrupt. That has always been true, no matter how it was formerly covered up. What has changed is that the corruption, graft, dishonesty and vice are no longer covered up.
Scandals that formerly would have ended the careers of politicians, athletes and entertainers are now excused, defended and even praised. This, in turn, has degraded our culture and emboldened attacks upon Christians for withholding their approval.
In response, a new religion has risen that retains the name of Christianity but denies its most fundamental doctrines. This “Progressive Christianity” began by denying miracles like Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the resurrection of the dead. It gained the approval of the world by approving the decadence of the sexual revolution. It culminates in the denial that Jesus is God.
This new “Christianity” seeks cultural hegemony by marginalizing the ancient faith and punishing its adherents with economic, social and even criminal sanctions. It has become the approved religion of the powerful. And it leverages this power to slander and defame anyone who maintains “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
So, what are we to think of all this? Should Christians simply give in and give up? Shall we roll with the flow and consider this “Brave New World” as a necessary correction that can be adopted without altering the substance of Christianity? Should we adopt the underhanded tactics of our culture and use them to fight fire with fire? Or should we retreat, give up hope and consider ourselves abandoned by God? God forbid! None of these alternatives flows out of the cross of Christ.
Rather, the crucifixion of Jesus teaches us a deeper and more lasting lesson than any of these. On Good Friday, Jesus was manhandled and reviled. He was beaten, spit upon and falsely accused.
He was called ungodly precisely for being God. He was accused of opposing the government, even while he plainly confessed that Pontius Pilate received his authority from God himself. Even though Pilate knew him to be innocent of the charges, he subjected him to the cruelest torture of the Roman world. Even though Pilate washed his hands of Jesus’ blood, he nevertheless handed him over to be crucified.
Where were the right men doing the right things? His disciples fled. Peter denied him. Those who were left to determine his fate were godless and cynical men who couldn’t care any less about doing the right thing.
But God was not absent from this. In fact, quite the opposite was true. God was right in the middle of all of this injustice, corruption and vice. Not as though approving it, but rather, accomplishing his good and gracious will through it.
The very people who are most scornful of God and his ways became his own unwitting instruments to accomplish his good work. This does not exculpate them from their guilt in crucifying their own creator. Jesus said, “the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed” (Luke 22:22)! Nevertheless, the greatest goodness that God has bestowed on the world was not done through good men doing good things, but through the enemies of God doing evil things.
That is why we call that dark Friday “Good Friday.” That is why we still look upon the cross with awe and wonder and hope. There, God once showed that evil events and open rebellion against God do not and cannot thwart his good will. Nor does God abandon the field in the face of evil and rebellion. Rather, God stands with his people, even – and especially – where the world has become thoroughly corrupt and godless.
The cross of Jesus reminds us that God creates good, even and especially in the midst of evil. Christians should not be worried or distressed for themselves as the world spirals into evil and rebellion. For God has not abandoned the field. He is still most powerfully at work where he seems most weak and defeated. His death is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).