Barnabas Fund — Christianity “despised by Western society”

Peter Paul Rubens, ‘The Three Crosses’ (circa 1620). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Peter Paul Rubens, ‘The Three Crosses’ (circa 1620). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

According to the Barnabas Fund’s daily prayer diary for Saturday 18th August, Christians are increasingly finding themselves despised by Western society.

“As Christians in many Western countries find themselves increasingly despised by society at large and their freedom of conscience and freedom of speech being gradually eroded, pray that their faith may grow to meet the new challenges.”

The Barnabas Fund, prayer diary, 18th August 2018

Its daily prayer for that day states,

As Christians in many Western countries find themselves increasingly despised by society at large and their freedom of conscience and freedom of speech being gradually eroded, pray that their faith may grow to meet the new challenges. Pray that Western church leaders will be bold and not compromise for the sake of an easy life. Ask also that Barnabas Fund‘s Our Religious Freedom campaign will be effective in safeguarding freedoms in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.[1]

This is actually where etimasthe gets its name from.

‘etimasthe’ is a Greek word meaning, “He was despised,” and refers to a passage in the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah, which Christians have always understood to be a centuries-in-advance prediction of the sufferings of Jesus:—

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah 53:3[2]

One of etimasthe’s aims is to highlight the erosion of religious freedom (including, but not limited to, Christian freedom) in the West, and to campaign against that erosion.

“If you live in the UK, please sign the Barnabas Fund’s ‘Our Religious Freedom’ petition online.”

If you live in the UK, please sign the Barnabas Fund’s ‘Our Religious Freedom’ petition here.

As Christians, we cherish the freedom we have in the West to meet together freely and to hear God’s word taught and proclaimed. Even so, we see that freedom being gradually eroded, but none of this surprises us.

The fact is, Jesus was despised in the 1st century both by the leaders of the Jewish people, and by the Roman authorities.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
John 1:10-11[3]

* * *

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to their playmates,

“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
Matthew 11:16-19[4]

* * *

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8[5]

Christianity burst onto the human stage twenty centuries ago. Yet in every century since that happened, Christians have always been despised by the age in which they lived.

“If the Tiber rises to the city walls or the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the heavens stay still or the earth moves, if there is famine of plague, the cry is at once: ‘The Christians to the lion’. What! So many of them to one lion?”

Tertullian, ‘Apology’, chapter 40

This is what Tertullian, a Christian in North Africa at the beginning of the third century wrote:—

“The name of faction is deserved (not by Christians but) by those who conspire to slander good and virtuous men, who cry out against innocent blood. They justify their enmity by the groundless pleas that Christians are the cause of every public disaster, of every affliction visited upon the people. If the Tiber rises to the city walls or the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the heavens stay still or the earth moves, if there is famine of plague, the cry is at once: ‘The Christians to the lion’. What! So many of them to one lion?”[6]

As you can see, the despising of Christians — even to the death — is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on since Christianity began, two thousand years ago. I might have chosen any number of other witnesses to illustrate this, ancient or modern.

Therefore we will keep fighting for our religious freedom. We will fight for the right to tell the gospel, publicly and from the rooftops.[7] Nevertheless, it comes as no surprise to us if we are despised by society. Jesus was despised, and why should his followers — for two thousand years — be different from him?

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah 53:3

 

 

Note
etimasthe.com is something I do outside of full-time employment. Consequently I generally only post new material on here once or twice a week.

The best way to stay informed of new content on here is to follow us on Twitter (@etimasthe) or to ‘like’ our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/etimasthe.

 


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 


[1] https://barnabasfund.org/en/daily-prayer/201808#

[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+53%3A3&version=ESVUK. The Old Testament book of Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew; the word ‘etimasthe’ refers to this verse in a pre-Christian translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek (2nd century B.C.) known as the Septuagint.

[3] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1%3A10-11&version=ESVUK

[4] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+11%3A16-19&version=ESVUK

[5] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+2%3A7-8&version=ESVUK

[6] Tertullian, Apology, chapter 40. Quoted in http://www.chriscastaldo.com/2011/01/26/tertullian/. Another translation of this passage can be found here.

[7] Cf. Matthew 10:27. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+10%3A27&version=ESVUK

Add a Comment