Australia, like much of Western civilisation, has moved from a broadly Christian culture, through a post-Christian culture, to what is becoming an anti-Christian culture. So, expect persecution.
Christians in some Muslim countries in Africa and in Afghanistan have had to endure persecution for decades and there is, lamentably, plenty of that horrendous persecution still going on. Same in such communist places as North Korea and China. There, too, Christians are still cruelly oppressed and, certainly in North Korea, killed for the faith. So far we’ve not seen anything like that here in Australia.
Not that we haven’t experienced persecution here in the past. Remember the taunts by state school children against Christian school children as they passed one another on the way to school. Or the boycotts against brothers who in the 1950s to 1960s lost their jobs because they refused to join secular trade unions. Or the ridicule of those who confessed Christ at places of employment. On the whole, however, we’ve had a cruisy run.
But as Australia’s culture is increasingly showing signs of open revolt against God and His Word, we are seeing signs of persecution. Perhaps the incidents are still sporadic, like the distant faint rumble of thunder and the occasional flashes of lightning on the far horizon but heading toward us. Indeed, some of those flashes are striking close.
Persecution in sport
That’s been evident in the sphere of sport. We’ve seen rugby player Israel Folau sacked for quoting Scripture about unrepentant homosexuals heading for hell. We’ve seen other rugby players stood down because they refused to wear guernseys advertising homosexuality.
The latest casualty is Andrew Thorburn, a Christian CEO of Essendon Football Club. Now I don’t know how a Christian can be CEO of a club that plays on Sunday and is associated with an idolatrous culture. Be that as it may, he was sacked after only one day in the job because it was discovered that he was a member of a church in which a minister had some years ago preached that homosexuality is sin and that abortion is murder (something Christians have, on the basis of God’s Word, believed for thousands of years).
Journalist Janet Albrechtsen explained:
“Thorburn is a member of the City on a Hill church. He sits on the board of this Christian organisation. Thorburn keeps his faith to himself. He didn’t tweet about homosexuality. He didn’t protest outside an abortion clinic. He didn’t preach Christian views to his management team or Essendon players. Yet the moral arbiters at Essendon decided that his private religious views were enough to have him removed from a job he held for 30 hours. The board axed him after the Herald Sun published a sermon given by a pastor from City on a Hill (not, we should note, by Thorburn) in 2013 and posted on City on a Hill’s website. This sermon said, among other things, that we may one day look back on abortions as mass killings on par with concentration camps.” [i]
So this man is not found guilty for condemning as evil something the Bible condemns as evil, which we believe he would be completely justified in doing. No, he is found guilty by association. He’s a member of a church in which a minister from a pulpit condemned something that the Bible shows is sin.
Let’s just bring that a little closer to home. Say one of our brothers or sisters applies for a job with a company. It is discovered after a little while that the person is a member of one of ‘our’ churches. Someone in the company scrolls through the You-tube sermons and discovers something said by a minister that’s not in keeping with today’s ‘woke’ culture. The person is sacked from the job because of his or her association with the church or bond of churches in which the sermon was held.
Of course, it wouldn’t happen to a member of another religion. When a Muslim female footballer recently refused to play at a game promoting homosexuality, the left-wing media treated her with kid gloves. However, if you’re a Christian it’s different. As commentator Chris Kenny satirically said,
“We know it could not happen … to a Muslim, not a Hindu, not to any religious devotee except a Christian. Media outrage would be instant, denunciations would be forthcoming from human rights lawyers and activists, politicians of all persuasions would rail against the club, government and semi-government commissions and offices would inject themselves into the controversy and Australia would be shamed internationally.
[It would not happen] if the shunned CEO were a Jew, Buddhist or Hindu; only Christians are fair game, only Christians are held to the virtue-signalling standards of the woke left.” [ii]
The Christian’s godly walk
So, why it is that Christians are the target? Why not the members of other religions? Is it because they don’t advertise their opposition to abortion and homosexuality? Is it, perhaps, because Christians are more outspoken? Or is it that the Christian’s godly walk of life is enough to arouse resentment by those who walk in darkness? As Rev van Delden said about the psalmist of Psalm 119.
“He was persecuted for the same reason Cain killed Abel. It’s because of the antithesis, the enmity, the hatred of the ungodly towards the godly. It’s because their deeds are evil while the deeds of the godly are righteous. The unrighteous hate the righteous deeds of God’s children. That’s because when we do what’s acceptable in God’s eyes by keeping His commandments then we expose the sins of others. We make them feel guilty before God and they don’t want to feel guilty. And so they persecute the righteous in the hope of turning off the ‘light’ as it were of the good deeds that the righteous are doing.” [iii]
Yes, like the persecuted psalmist we can expect the same treatment. Jesus told his disciples: “If they persecuted me they will persecute you” (Jn 15:20). Paul later wrote to Timothy: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).
But why not persecute those of other faiths? After all, some of them also condemn homosexuality and abortion. Some of them also advertise their beliefs and ‘walk their talk’. So why are they not ridiculed by the main-stream media and secular intelligentsia?
Anti-Christ and against Christ’s Church
The Scriptural answer is that Satan opposes Christ and all who seek to honour Christ. He is, after all, anti-Christ. Not anti-Muhammed. Not anti-Hindu. Not anti-Buddha. Satan’s opposition from the start was against the Christ and therefore against His followers, the Christians. He drives anti-Christian rulers and anti-Christian society. As we read in Psalm 2:1-3:
“Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.”
“Against His Anointed”: anti-Christ.
It’s pictured in Revelation 12—about the woman who is about to give birth to a Son. That woman is the church and that Son is the Lord Jesus Christ. The dragon, symbolising Satan, opposes her. The whole history of the world is a history of Satan opposing Christ and His church. In the Old Testament he tried to destroy the church so that Christ could not be born. When, eventually, Christ was born and established His kingdom by purchasing His flock with His precious blood, Satan was cast out of heaven to earth. There he rages against the woman and her offspring, the Christian church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John says beautiful things there about this church. She is clothed with the sun, has the moon under her feet and has a crown of twelve stars on her head. That is, she is the light of this world, reflecting that light around her.
But opposing her is the dragon, a big bloodred brute. He is the power of darkness and death. With his seven heads he devours those around him and with his ten horns he exercises power throughout the earth. His seven crowns and diamonds indicate that he is crowned in this world. He presents himself as having glory and riches. Yet he represents darkness.
We don’t read of that in the news. It focusses on the wars between nations. It’s always been like that. In the Old Testament the people were concerned about the physical war between Egypt and Babylon. Later between Greece and Rome. During WW2 between England and Germany. Now between Ukraine and Russia. Tomorrow maybe between China and America. It’s been like that since the Tower of Babel, when the Lord established the different nations.
But the real division started earlier, in Genesis 3:15, when God put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. That division between Christ and Satan, between the church of Christ and the followers of Satan, between the Christ confessors and the Christ deniers is the real struggle that governs all history.
For in essence the different nations are one. Countries at war have later become the best of friends. Germany and Italy, at war with other European nations during WW2, are now united in the European Union. Japan and America, at each other’s throats during WW2, now do military exercises together.
To our great comfort, Christ is in heaven and rules over all. But He warns His church that the dragon, having been cast out of heaven, is enraged and makes war against the woman and her offspring; against the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. John says she is forced into the wilderness. That is, the world does not allow her to spread her light in the public square. She doesn’t count. She is in the world but she can’t participate.
That’s become quite evident over the years in politics, social organisations and education. Recently we’ve even seen computer/phone apps cancel those whose messages don’t conform to their ‘inclusive’ policies. Expect more.
Meanwhile, let us trust in God and keep confessing Christ’s kingship. For the glorious future belongs only to those who are with Christ. The brilliant perspective off the new and eternal paradise is for Christ’s church, His bride. And despite all present persecution, she may await His second coming in the strength of the Lord, to whom has been given all authority in heaven and earth, and sing with Luther:
And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
[i] Janet Albrechtsen, “Moral cowards lead us all on another step down dark road in Andrew Thorburn, Essendon saga”, The Weekend Australian, Saturday, October 8, 2022.
[ii] Chris Kenny, “Essendon drops ball on the right to religious freedom”, The Australian, 8 October 2022.
[iii] Sermon on Psalm 119:94 held in Mt Nasura 9 October 2022.