Now I’m certain of it.
What once was my faith in the unseen living God, has transfigured into something more akin to absolute certainty. 30 years of coincidences in answer to prayer; 30 years of hearing his voice through the Bible, through sermons, through other people speaking into my life, through the Holy Spirit speaking with his still, small voice within me; 30 years of experiencing him intrude into my life when I sometimes did not want him there, have changed what was at first a shaky, uncertain belief into a matter-of-fact acceptance that of course he is real, of course he is with me, of course he loves me. I only rarely have doubts any more. What with his almost continuous intrusion into my life, it is hard not to believe in him. Being prodded in the ribs almost daily by God and reminded that he wants me to talk to him and not to forget him, makes it hard to doubt the reality of his presence.
It may seem hard to believe, but I’m a fairly normal sort of guy. I’m reasonably clever. I am rational. I understand the argument against God put forward by Atheists, and I might well agree with them, if God was not so real to me. I understand that many people think I’m deluded and that I’ve been brainwashed. In fact, I had a boss once who actually took me aside out of genuine concern for me and asked me “Don’t you think you’re letting yourself be a little bit brainwashed by all this religious stuff?”
Being a Christian in Australia is not like being a Christian in a country like Iran, where you can be imprisoned for believing in Jesus, or like Egypt where some Christians are forced to live beside rubbish dumps and can only get work in the lowest form of menial work. Nor is it like being a Christian in America, where Christianity is an accepted part of the culture and where politicians and movie stars call upon God in their public appearances, even thought many of them don’t really believe in him or walk the way Jesus teaches that they should.
Christianity in Australia is tolerated, but sometimes only just. As long as we keep our ‘religion’ to ourselves and don’t try to force people to live a certain way, we are tolerated.
The sad truth is, though, that Christians in Australia as with many other religions and belief systems, are persecuted with a sort of ‘velvet’ persecution. Christianity is tolerated, but when we talk about Jesus too much, you can sense a certain disharmony arise in the room. People would rather you just shut up and act normally like everyone else. A strong proclamation of faith can lead to a subtle form of ostracism. You don’t get invited to after work drinks. People don’t share dirty jokes with you anymore (fair enough too, I guess).
But even this form of gentle, velvet-lined persecution works. An often unrecognised side-effect of this sort of persecution is that quite often Christians in Australia do as we’re told by the society we live in. We’re told to stop talking about Jesus, please, because it makes Australians feel uncomfortable. So we stop talking about Jesus.
We’re told that we shouldn’t be un-Australian and religious, so we fit in and make sure we are fair-dinkum Aussies and if we have a faith at all, that it should be a ritualised, tokenistic religion which is only observed on Sunday morning and does not impinge upon our beer-guzzling, brash, independent, sports crazy way of life.
The trouble is that when we put the desires of the society we live in before the desires of our God, it is not the way he wants us to live. When we put the needs of the nation we live in and belong to before the needs of the Kingdom of God, we lose perspective on the reason we are Christians.
Jesus taught that Christians should
“Seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness…” Matthew 6:33
Sometimes that means we have to live lives that might seem un-Australian to some.
When we’re told to shut up and sit down, but God is telling us to stand up and speak on his behalf, we should stand and speak for God. of course, we need to do so with respect for the people we speak to, but we also need to remember that the reason we are so insistent in what we say is because we see a fire burning all around them and we want to save them from its flames.
Our beliefs might seem stupid to non-Christian Australians, but if in the end, it turns out that the people we speak to are indeed saved from literal flames, then that stupid belief is worth speaking out for.
I’m affected by this velvet persecution just as much as anyone else. I’ve stopped sharing my faith as much as I used to, because I have just been worn out with being looked at askance and muttered about so often.
This blog post in admission that I need to change. I need to re-capture the love and enthusiasm I had for Christ when he first started to reveal himself to me.
Pray that God would encourage me to speak for him when he needs me to.