Fifteen months ago I drew attention to an article, ‘Faith’s Implacable Enemies’ in The Weekend Australian (November 4-5, 2017). Dyson Heydon, a former justice of the High Court of Australia, wrote of the significant shift by society’s elites today away from the humble dependence on the blessing of Almighty God expressed in the ‘Imperial Act’ that brought ‘the Australian Constitution into being’.
Heydon commented that ‘the public voices of the modern elites are not humble. They conceive themselves to have entitlements and rights, not blessings. And they do not feel any gratitude to Almighty God for their entitlements and rights. Instead, they desire to exclude any role for religion in Australian public discussion, and perhaps any role for religion in any sphere, public or private. They instantly demand an apology for any statement they dislike.’
Furthermore, Heydon observed, ‘Indifference (towards religion) based on rising wealth can be insidiously damaging to religion… Religion inquires into the nature of humanity and the destiny of humanity… To those satisfied with the pleasures of this world, now so freely available, inquiry and search of these kinds is of no interest… But members of modern elites are moving away from mere indifference. They are embracing a fanatical anti-clericalism. Some want to destroy faith itself…’
‘Modern elites do not desire tolerance,’ Heydon noted. ‘They demand unconditional surrender’.
How will we respond? Let me suggest two words to keep in mind: Gratitude and Truth.
In his opening section in his Letter to the Colossians, Paul the Apostle does two things. First, he thanks God for the Colossians faith in Christ and for their love for one another. Significantly he speaks of their faith and love arising from the hope they have in the gospel. Secondly, Paul speaks of the gospel, as ‘the word of the truth’.
Gratitude. In most of his Letters, Paul does something we today so often overlook: he expresses his heartfelt thanks to God for his evident work in the lives of men and women.
In Colossians 3:17 Paul writes: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
There is a timeless wisdom here, for nothing brings about discord and hostility more than an unhappy, unthankful spirit. To be thankful is to accept the challenges of life confident in God’s love and compassion. A thankful heart trusts God in every situation. It doesn’t mean that we do nothing. Rather, under God, for whose love we are grateful, we will look for constructive ways forward. People who have a great sense of gratitude to God are kind and generous themselves, looking for ways to serve the best interests of others around them.
Truth. In Colossians 1:5b – 6 Paul writes: Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,..
What is significant here is the emphasis that Paul puts on the word truth. The gospel, he says is, literally, the word of the truth. ‘You Colossians came to know the grace of God in all its truth.’ Paul could have left out any reference to the words the truth, but he doesn’t. He wants to stress that the essence of the Christian message is true.
When we think about it we can see that the gospel statement is beyond human invention and imagination. No one of us would have invented a God who was prepared to forgive a self-preoccupied and faithless world by such a costly and humiliating death as occurred at Calvary. A gospel like this can’t be invented or contradicted.
Furthermore, the gospel is also true in ‘an historical’ sense. Paul is telling us what Luke also states about his ‘account concerning Jesus Christ’ – that the ‘eyewitness accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus’ – are no invention (Luke 1:1-4). They are true and trustworthy. (If you are keen to follow this up, you may want to read the Prelude of my book, Luke: An Unexpected God, Aquila: 2019, pp.3-10, as well as, Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament Reliable? IVP: 2003.
Too often we forget to thank God for the generous grace and truth of his gospel, and so we are silenced.
Dyson Heydon commented that the elites today, ‘By preventing any public expression of religious thought through ridicule and bullying, … tend to cause religion to wither away even in the private sphere. What can have no public expression will eventually cease to have any private existence…’
What we often overlook is that the followers of Jesus overturned the ancient Roman world, not by armed revolution, but through bold and confident prayer to the God ‘whose nature is always to have mercy’, and by the example of their lives and the testimony of their lips.
Let’s pray that we express each day our gratitude to the Lord for his boundless love and mercy, assured that the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ is the truth and nothing but the truth.
© John G. Mason, Anglican Connection