Being Christ-like in an Anti-Christian Culture
Being Christ-like in an Anti-Christian Culture
New conditions require adaptations. Organizations that do not change fast enough or who make the wrong change fall behind. Recent actions by the courts and various government agencies have altered the ecology within which Fresno Pacific operates. A new legal and social environment requires adaptations. The process is constant. The one constant and dependable assumption is that things will change.
The people who have been clinging to the premise that America is a Christian nation received a massive dose of reality therapy from the Supreme Court with its recent ruling that the marriage of two people of the same sex is the moral, social, and legal equivalent of the marriage of two people of opposite sex. However a Christian nation might be defined, very few proponents of the concept would agree that it includes unlimited approbation of same-sex marriage. The effort to make the laws and mores of America align with historic understandings of biblical guidance for public welfare has run its course.
What this means for the followers of Jesus and for all the widely varied nonprofit service and educational organizations that such Christians have created is not yet clear. What is obvious is that while many particulars are being defined by legislative and judicial actions during the next few years, the reality is that a Christ-centered evangelical Anabaptist university and seminary like Fresno Pacific must find new ways to be truly Christ-like in an anti-Christian environment. The church must be the body of Christ in a secular culture that often does not understand or value what the church seeks to be and do. And as a legal and spiritual creature of the church, the same reality is true for Fresno Pacific University and our more than 100 partner schools in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.
But this momentous decision by the high court does not prevent us from being a pervasively and winsomely Christ-centered institution. We must learn new ways to demonstrate the loving kindness and compassion to which God calls us, when what we believe is moral behavior is considered immoral by the world around us. We must discern how to show love to those who detest us and call us hateful for proscribing behaviors that we consider immoral and wrong, but which the world around us considers moral and good.
The church in many other nations around the world has had to live this way for a very long time, but this is a challenging new reality for sincere followers of Jesus Christ in America. The world we seek to serve in the name of Jesus Christ does not understand or make distinctions that are fundamental and determinative for those who seek to live in accordance with their Christian faith under the authority of Scripture. Our light must shine in a different way than before, in sharper contrast with the gathering darkness.
We hope the tax-exempt status of contributions to institutions like Fresno Pacific will not be eliminated. We hope that our students will not lose the state and federal financial aid on which most of them depend for their higher education. We hope that we will be able to continue to place our students in schools and other public agencies for internships and employment. So far none of these hopes are dead. But these and many other similar hopes are now considered in jeopardy as government agencies feel compelled to value a wide array of individual civil rights above the right to freely exercise sincerely held religious beliefs.
The implications extend far beyond the particular issue of same-sex marriage. Fresno Pacific has officially requested confirmation of its religious exemption to maintain a broad range of behavioral standards that differ from the legally enforceable norms of the secular society in which we operate. Even if such confirmation of our exemption is granted, it is no longer certain whether we can also retain our traditional government- provided benefits if we do not follow the dictates of all its laws and regulations.
At this point, we are collaborating with many other evangelical institutions as we hold to our understanding of biblical morality in all areas of our community life together. We are doing our best to make our policies explicitly clear and consistent, leaving nothing vulnerable to legal challenge. We request your support, understanding and prayers as we seek wisdom in establishing, clarifying and consistently implementing our policies regarding the behavior of our employees and our students in alignment with our Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith.
Our beliefs, values, standards and expectations have not changed. What has changed is the assurance of respectful governmental protection of our right to maintain a Christ-centered community of faith and practice and receive the same benefits and protections under the law that secular institutions enjoy. But if we cannot receive equal treatment, then we shall obey God rather than man and trust the providence of our Heavenly Father.
We must continue to humbly seek Christ-likeness in an increasingly adamant anti-Christian culture. We will be misunderstood and maligned, but we must seek to authentically show the love of God to all persons, especially to those who wrongly accuse us. We are not responsible for the decisions of a human court or influences from the public media, but we are responsible for faithfulness to our high calling as forgiven followers of Jesus Christ.