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Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience (1 Peter 3:15b-16a ESV)

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4/08/2004

Today in Church History 

April 8, 1929 -- The Soviet government passed legislation aimed at destroying evangelical Christianity.

"Religious associations may not (a) create mutual credit societies, cooperative or commercial undertakings, or in general, use property at their disposal for other than religious purposes; (b) give material help to their members; (c) organize for children, young people and women special prayer or other meetings, circles, groups, departments for biblical or literary study, sewing, working or the teaching of religion, etc., excursions, children's playgrounds, libraries, reading rooms, sanatoria, or medical care. Only books necessary for the cult may be kept in the prayer buildings and premises."

In other words, keep your religion to yourselves. Don't hold Bible school for the kids or teach them your faith. Don't encourage people to study the Bible. Don't give your members study materials. Do your thing on Sunday, and leave the rest of us alone. Make sure you're back to normal on Monday morning when you get to work.

Totalitarians fear and hate Christianity. The Romans did -- they tried to destroy the early Church. Hitler did -- he managed to co-opt many Christians by twisting Scripture and distorting historic teachings. Communist governments around the world do. We hear about the trials and tribulations of Christians in China all the time. Cuba is no better. One of the first things that happened in Russia after the wall came down was the re-emergence of the churches that had been driven underground by the government.

Many peope in the United States have this same feeling about religion. It's a great thing for Sundays, they say, but it has no place in everyday life. Don't inflict your opinions on the rest of us. Don't support political candidates who agree with you. Don't DARE share your faith with other people. What do you MEAN, you want to have a Bible study before school during the week?

We can do one of four things. Hide our heads in the sand, hoping that somehow things will get better. Pitch in with them, and stop living our faith outside the church walls. Try to get the government to change things (like that's working!). Or do what God has commanded us to do, and let happen to us what may.

Many Christians have chosen option one. They don't want to know what's going on. They've locked themselves away, and won't come out until the Lord comes back to get them. Far too many have chosen option two. They've sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, and they're parrotting the things the world says we should do. They let unbelievers define what being Christ-like actually is. The religious right has, for the most part, chosen option three. The nature of politics suggests to me that it won't work, and I've seen nothing from any administration to suggest it would be any different. Option four is the option that the early church chose. It's the option of the Reformation. It's the option of the growing Church in China. It's the option we need to choose in America.


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