By Pastor Larry T. Campbell
BIBLE MEDITATION: "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles-when we walked in licentiousness, lust, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you" (I Peter 4:3-4, NKJV).
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT: Do critics call you stubborn? Dogmatic? Hopelessly old-fashioned? Do you feel yourself growing more and more distant from the world's lifestyles and belief systems? Are you made to feel guilt or even shame when you express your ideas about what is going on in the world? Perhaps, you are discovering modern society’s rising disdain for convictions.
The world is having an increasingly difficult time dealing with men and women of conviction. They don't know what to do with them. They do not seem to belong anymore. As change streaks through our society at warp speed, those who refuse to buckle up pay dearly for their inflexibility. Society reserves its understanding and compassion only for those who change. Those who do not or will not change are held in contempt.
The litany of things that were once opposed with strong convictions by the majority of people, but now are generally accepted, is long and growing. Abortion, unwed motherhood, living together without marriage, homosexuality, homosexual adoptions, and euthanasia appear on a short list. To this list we could add nudity, vulgar behavior, profane language, bizarre fashions, and sexual promiscuity. These have all now become commonplace because convictions against them have wilted under the heat of the issues.
Why? There are at least two possible answers. One possible answer is that the changed views toward these issues have triumphed because they are inherently right; a second possible answer is that the new views have benefited from the unwillingness of people to hold convictions and risk being branded as pig-headed or intolerant. The second answer is more likely: people have become conditioned to lay aside their convictions simply because their views are old-fashioned and therefore rejected by the majority. It's not what you believe, but how strongly you believe it that draws the attention of the world around you.
Society now brands convictions as a form of intolerance. Dr. Paul Kienel, past president of the Association of Christian Schools International, writes about the new thinking in secular educational circles. He says that tolerance itself has come under scrutiny. Tolerance that says "I disagree with you but I still love you, and will try to get along with you" is no longer acceptable. This is seen as negative tolerance. Political correctness now demands positive tolerance that says "I agree that your viewpoint is right for you and I support your desire to hold that view." One spokesperson for this opinion said, "The only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance." ACTION POINT: How long has it been since you read the words of the apostle Peter? He said, "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles-when we walked in licentiousness, lust, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you" (I Peter 4:3-4, NKJV). Again, he wrote, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (I Peter 4:12-16, NIV). The suffering Peter referred to may not have been physical only but also emotional and psychological. I’m reminded of Rick Warren’s distinction between an opinion and conviction, “An opinion is something you hold; a conviction is something that holds you. An opinion is something you’ll argue about. A conviction is something you will suffer for and, if necessary, die for.
As Christians, we must pay the price to reside at truth's address. Our convictions rest firmly upon the foundation of the Word of God. The increasing pressure to change must serve only to reinforce our commitment. If we suffer for the name of Jesus, let it not be our veil of shame but our badge of honor.
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