The (un)Persecuted Church

It seems inevitable that every Christmas there is some outrage about people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” This “war on Christmas” has been happening for as long as I remember. Keeping Christ in Christmas seems to be the mantra of Christians during the months of November and December. This must be modern persecution right? Absolutely not.

Something that I have been mulling over in my mind this Christmas season is the fact that the “war on Christmas” seems to escalate every year. Christians are called to engage in subversive acts by sneakily saying “Merry Christmas” to their local grocery clerk or department store worker. But here’s the thing, no matter how we feel about the lack of “Merry Christmas” signs in our stores or absence of manger scenes on our coffee cups, we cannot call it persecution. The only thing at risk here is our feelings being hurt.

We are so far removed from persecution in the American church. This Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we can freely go to our churches and worship the birth of our Savior. The same cannot be said for the house churches in China or the persecuted church in Syria, Iran and Iraq who risk their lives to simply meet together and pray. We, as American Christians, must realize the privilege we have to freely gather and worship and never take that for granted. The fact that we have the freedom to celebrate the birth of Jesus every year means that we cannot complain whether or not Starbucks upholds our fragile sense of religious conviction.

Historically speaking, Christians were never accommodated the way Americans are today. Take the first century for example. Christians in the early church were being killed left and right for proclaiming that there was a King higher than Caesar. To be a Christian in the first century was to live with the constant risk of your life being taken at any moment. No matter how hard we try, American culture will always be just that; American culture. We far too often make the mistake of confusing American culture with Kingdom culture. They have never and will never be the same.

Being a part of Kingdom culture means that the American culture we live in will never live up to or substitute for what Christ calls us to be a part of. How we participate in the Kingdom culture is by loving God and our neighbors. Even when they offend us by wishing us a Happy Holiday. Kingdom culture offers an alternative to the broken fallenness of the human condition. Rather than be offended by the “war on Christmas,” we need to remember that we are able to go to our churches on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and freely worship the triumphant birth of our Savior.

Do not get me wrong, I am very grateful to God that we live in a country that ensures our freedom of worship. But that also means that when Target employees wish you a Happy Holiday, they are not maliciously seeking your death. It is far easier to be offended by something than to acknowledge that not everyone shares your convictions.

Because I am able to do so without fear of repercussion, I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas. May you realize the magnitude of our blessing and the pettiness of our fight to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Let us celebrate the birth of Christ by living into the Kingdom that has come, and His will to be done.

– J


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