2011 - Vol. 51
into a Battle
a Christian way of life in a
A person who joined the church in the early days of its development
knew that he or she was making a radical decision. In the first place,
society was hostile to Christians. One who believed in Christ faced loss
of status, of livelihood, of property, and, perhaps, the loss of life itself.
Beyond this, the Christian was also embracing a new way of life, a way
of life very different from their neighbors. How they looked at science,
history, marriage, politics, family relationships, morality, even their
concept of human existence was different from, and often opposed to, the
thinking of the majority. Indeed, intrinsic to following the “way of Christ”
was the idea that one would be consciously different: that they would be
in the world but not of it.
Western society remains basically secular. It is not following God,
and it is opposed to those who do. Most Christians today have also become
Let's look at the evidence:
A nationwide survey in the US conducted by The
Barna Group among a representative sample of adults explored how many
have what might be considered a “biblical worldview.” The report from Barna
compared current results to the outcomes from a similar survey the company
conducted in 1995, 2000 and 2005.
For the purposes of the survey, a “biblical worldview” was defined as
believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate
in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being
or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven
by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life
on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world
who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all
of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.
Overall, the current research revealed that only 9% of all American
adults have a biblical worldview. The research data showed that one
emerged loud and clear: young adults rarely possess a biblical worldview.
The current study found that less than one-half of one percent of adults
aged 18 to 23 have a biblical worldview, compared to about one out of every
nine older adults.
Now, let's look at compliance.
(Note: The numbering
of the commandments in this article follows the pattern of the Orthodox
Church, as this article was written originally for an Orthodox audience.)
first two of God's commands teach us to worship and value God before all
else, and that we shall not worship the works of our hands. Rather than
valuing worship of God, our society concentrates on material accumulation
and personal fulfillment. We are next commanded to revere the names of
God and not abuse them, but His names have become standard swear words.
The Sabbath, the Lord's Day, is now a time for pleasure and yard work,
but God intended it for worship and rest, He commands us to honor father
and mother, but society has devalued traditional family structure in favor
of career advancement while the government is systematically stripping
parents of their authority and responsibility, The Sixth Commandment says
“Thou shall not kill,” but millions of lives have been lost to abortion,
“Right to die” legislation now threatens the elderly and infirm as well.
The Bible clearly teaches that sex has a very special and protected
place – inside the covenant of marriage, Today, however, half of all marriages
end in divorce while adultery touches over half of those which don't. A
in the US (2007) found that the average age at which teenagers have their
first sexual experience steadily decreased during the 1990s, and now almost
half of American adolescents report that they have had sex by the time
they graduate from high school.
God says, “Do not steal,” but cheating on our income tax has become
an American art form (economists estimate that 10 to 30% of transactions
are unreported). We are also commanded not to bear false witness, but slander
and innuendo are standard "reporting techniques" in the media, while gossip
fills work place and neighborhood. Finally, we are told not to covet what
God has given another, yet popular TV shows that promote the lifestyles
of the rich and famous have no problem finding viewers.
What’s the Standard
What this evidence shows is that our culture has moved away from the
Judeo-Christian morality and has embraced some other ethic against which
it measures right and wrong.
It is interesting that many people describe their moral ethic as the
Ten Commandments, but upon close examination it is obvious that the Ten
Commandments are, in fact, not guiding the conduct of society. Secular
society, it would seem, is involved in some kind of mass rationalization
and self deception where moral values no longer line up with specific scriptural
standards, but people, through ignorance and personal justification, fail
to see or admit that fact.
A Radical Decision
My reason for developing this argument is quite simple – to alert us
to the fact that our society is indeed not “Christian.” We need to realize
that if we truly follow the way of Christ, our lives will look considerably
different from those of our neighbors. We live in a situation that is quite
similar to that of the early believers. While most of us will not face
physical persecution because of our beliefs (although some will), choosing
to faithfully follow Christ means that how we look at science, history,
marriage, politics, family relationships, morality, and even human existence
will be different from, and often opposed to, the thinking of the majority.
Indeed, following the way of Christ still means being consciously different
being in the world but not of it. We need to know that the decision to
follow Christ is still a radical one.
Taking a Stand
What concerns me is how very few Christians seem to be aware of how
bad the situation is.
We have lost the notion that giving our lives to God through Christ
is supposed to make a difference. We accept the world's values and the
world's ethics as our own with seeming little understanding that in doing
so we are rejecting the Lord we claim to serve. Statisticians cannot find
a discernable difference between Christian and secular behavior. Just as
many Christians engage in premarital sex; just as many Christian marriages
are broken by divorce; just as many Christians end up in jail. Rather than
standing against the tide of secularization, firmly anchored to the revealed
word of God, many, many Christians are choosing to go with the flow.
battle scene from the Chronicles
of Narnia movie
Born Into a Battle
Whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, each one of
us is born into a battle. On one side stands Jesus Christ and his followers.
On the other side is Satan and those who follow him. There is no middle
ground. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30).
Subscribing to a comfortable, but meaningless, “social Christianity” is
not standing with Jesus. Casual Christians become Christian casualties.
He calls for a total giving over of our lives to him: “Whoever comes to
me cannot be my disciple unless he hates his father and mother, his wife
and children, his brothers and sisters, and himself as well.” Nothing,
absolutely nothing, can stand between us and our Lord.
An Army At War
The body of Christ has been likened to an army.
Indeed, we are an army at war. There is a spiritual battle going on
right now: a battle for the souls of men and women, for the spiritual destinies
of our children, and for the control of society. The general disobedience
to God's laws mentioned earlier is not simply an interesting social phenomenon.
There are spiritual forces at work here. In the book of Ephesians (6: 12)
we read: “We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the
wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities,
and cosmic powers of this dark age.”
In the midst of this battle, the people who constitute the church militant
are strangely complacent. The average Christian seems not to know that
he or she is a member of an army, let alone that there is a war going on,
The quest for worldly peace and prosperity have lulled us to sleep, and
while we slumber, the evil one has been at work. Territory once won for
Christ has been lost. Satan is making advances. Entire nations that were
once considered Christian have been snatched away by the enemy.
As Christian men and women, as members of God's army, we need to be
clear about where we stand. We are in the midst of a battle. God has assured
us that he and his church shall be, indeed, already are, victorious. But
it is equally clear that in the course of the battle there will be casualties.
I believe that in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-23), the seeds
that fell among the thorns especially apply to our day and time. We have
received the Word of God and have begun to grow, but the cares of this
world and the deceitfulness of riches choke us, and many have become unfruitful.
Let each one of us examine our live. Have we made a radical commitment
for Jesus? Are we willing to be different, to stand against the tide for
the sake of Christ? Will we embrace God's standards as our own, and when
we fall short, will we respond with repentance, not rationalization? Are
we willing to invest the time and effort necessary to lead our children
to Christ and train them to serve as his soldiers also?
The Apostle Paul challenges us, “Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice
to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. Do not conform to
the standards of this world, but let God transform you by a complete renewal
of your mind” (Romans 12:1,2).
[This article first appeared
in Theosis: Newsletter for Orthodox Spiritual Renewal, May/June
1987. This version has been updated by the author.]
Jerry Munk is a member of
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and a coordinator in the Work
of Christ Community, Lansing, Michigan, USA. He and his wife Jan have
three grown children, all actively participating in the community.