We seem to live in a scary moment for Christian witness. Literal martyrdom is taking place in some nations at a horrifying level, while disdain for the Church and especially biblically conservative Christians in Europe and the United States seems to be fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that “you will be hated by all people for My name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:22)
On top of all this, the pandemic shut down many churches. Now that they are open again, pews and chairs are slow in being occupied.
Even though a “majority of Protestant churches are now open for in-person services ... foot traffic has been slow to return to the pews,” wrote reporter Leonardo Blair in a Christian Post article on Nov. 9.
Some Bible students see our age as manifesting many of the conditions Jesus described in the Olivet discourse recorded in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. His followers were curious about the characteristics of the End Times. Jesus surprised them with His answer. It would, He said, be an age of apostasy, peril, false prophets, outright hatred for Christ’s followers, and other ominous phenomena, like “the abomination of desolation.”
All of this intensifies like “birth pangs” in the womb of time and culminates in the grand telos (purpose) of history — the coming of Christ and the establishment in the world of His Kingdom of righteousness — justice, peace, and Spirit-given joy. (Romans 14:17)
Yes, many have thought their periods of existence constituted the End Times and were proven wrong, and yes, there are those who see the signs of the times now as similar to what Jesus and Bible prophets foresaw.
But whether now or at some future point there will be a time and season (a chronos and a kairos) when it really is the moment of His sudden coming.
Some of Christ’s followers in these turbulent and trying times will turn away under the stresses and trials of persecution, exclusion, and antipathy at just the moment everything they have hoped for is being birthed.
And that brings us to the sad story of U.S. Army Private Eddie Slovik, the only American soldier of some 16 million who fought in the Second World War who would be executed for desertion.
I learned first-hand about Slovik through a long conversation years ago with his biographer, William Bradford Huie.
Slovik, in Huie’s description, had been a “petty thief” who lived a troubled youth, spending time in reform schools. However, his life had taken a turn for the better just before his being drafted into military service.
On Oct. 9, 1944, Slovik refused orders and deserted his platoon. He was caught, arrested, and court-martialed. Slovik was executed on Jan. 31, 1945. In a mere five months, the Nazis would surrender, and in eight months Japan would raise the white flag.
Thus, what I call the “Slovik Syndrome” describes the situation in which people abandon the race at the very time they are nearing victory.
In his Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has the devil instructing his demons about how to defeat the follower of Christ: “in attacks on patience, chastity, and fortitude, the fun is to make the man yield just when (had he but known it) relief was almost in sight.”
Thus, the tragedy now is that of people deserting Christ, the Bible, and the Church after the Christ-movement has come so far, bled and borne so much. They would be giving up at what could be the very time in the “birth pangs” process when the new birth of all things in and through Christ bursts from the womb of time.
Don’t panic, don’t be afraid. Everything is happening right on time. Now is not the time to run away.
Wallace B. Henley, a former White House and Congressional aide, is the author or co-author of more than 20 books. His latest is Who Will Rule the Coming ‘Gods’: The Looming Spiritual Crisis of Artificial Intelligence, just released by Vide Press.
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