2 Timothy 3:10-13
Those Awful Binaries
It sort of depends on where you live on the face of the globe and the time period in which you live in history. There are parts of the world in which the church lives in relative peace such as America. This is due to the fact that America was founded largely by Christians or at least people of Christian heritage and worldview. This is not the case for Christians who have lived in other parts of the globe dominated by other religions, or by atheistic systems such as Communism. And the shame of it all is that Christians themselves have persecuted other peoples and even other Christians who were not of their particular brand.
But Paul does not speak of nominal Christianity but of genuine and true Christians—the kind who strive “to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.” These, he says, “will be persecuted.” And Paul had a resume to prove it. But why is this? Why is it that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus [which should be the modus operandi of every Christian] will be persecuted?” Because the world is naturally hostile to the gospel and genuine Christianity. This is evident on every page of the Bible. The Bible presents what people in our day would call a “binary” view of the world: Light and dark; life and death; of the devil and of God; truth-tellers and liars; the domain of darkness and kingdom of his dear Son; those who believe and those who are condemned already; well done good and faithful servant and depart from me ye cursed; heaven and hell. And we could even get personal: Cain and Abel; Esau and Jacob; Saul and David; Peter and Judas; Jew and Gentile; and finally, Christian and pagan.
And it is this binary reality (not the “understanding of” but what reality truly is) over which the world seethes with rage. The world prefers grays, mixtures, fusions, even muddles, and in its fury to eliminate binaries, will feverishly seek to assimilate anything and everything in its path. The world is happy to have churches which “improve” society as the world prefers, which currently goes by that slippery, evanescent, and utopian mishmash called, “social justice.” But let a church preach the gospel which demands repentance from sin and “ye must be born again,” which boldly proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, whose followers live such godly lives that manifest in stark and glaring fashion the difference, the “binary,” between the children of light and those of darkness, in short, a church which refuses to be assimilated and amalgamated into the world’s dull, boring, banal, and poisonous witches’ brew of pagan sameness and immorality—I say, let a church preach so and her people live so and then you will see persecution on a grand scale.
And this is where the rubber hits the road, where excuses will not work. I began by making excuses for America. But this verse will not allow that: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The sentence is universal in its scope. You may receive it or reject it, but it will allow of no mixture, no equivocation, no “Yeah, but.” Indeed, the Apostle makes the binary all the more striking, adding, “while evil people and imposters [those not desiring and striving to live a godly life in Christ Jesus] will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” The punishment in this life for sin is always self-deception and the slavery to the sin that goes along with that deception so that one sinks deeper and deeper into the mire of self-deception and sin.
So the very uncomfortable question arises: If we are not being persecuted in America, why not? If I am not being persecuted, why not? Am I not living a godly life? Is such even my desire? And when persecution comes, will we rejoice knowing “so persecuted they the prophets who were before [us]” (Matthew 5:12)? These are hard questions which require soul-searching answers from those who call themselves, “God’s people.”