Culture Saturday: Comfort Among Lions
Last year our pastor, during our Summer in the Psalms, quoted from Charles Spurgeon. This week I looked up the 1879 sermon on Psalm 57 that he was quoting from.
In it, Spurgeon talked about being among lions. And he didn’t sugarcoat it.
My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.
- Psalm 57:4
It would be all too easy to say that persecution is what happens to them and not to us. Or say that real persecution— the good ol’ True Scotsman argument— is not happening here. And this was 150 years ago. Christianity was even more encroached in the Western culture. But Charles didn’t go that easy route. He addresses the working men of Britain that are under persecution by coworkers.
They declare that they never will be slaves; but they are slaves — slaves to their own ungodliness and drunkenness— the great mass of them; and only where divine grace comes in and snaps the chain do men become free at all.
Not driving the point, but “only where divine grace comes in and snaps the chain do men become free at all” is an excellent phrase. If you don’t know that divine grace, you are enslaved to Satan. Period.
If one serious man sets his face steadfastly to serve God the baser sort seem as if they must get him under their feet, and treat him with every indignity that malice can devise. It may be all in sport, but the victim does not think so.
I once looked up the word sarcasm. The word comes from Greek sarkasmos, literally meaning “to strip off the flesh”. That is what sarcasm is doing. Jeering, poking fun, mocking. None of it builds up. Now some guys, that is how their relationships work with each other. But one always has to check themselves.
Do not tell me that persecution ceased when the last martyr burned. There are martyrs who have to burn by the slow fire of cruel mockings day after day; and I bless God that the old grit is still among us, and that the old spirit still survives, so that men defy sneers and slander and hold on their way.
“Burn by the slow fire of cruel mockings.” I feel that. There are those that seek to destroy. There are old ways of pulling good men into the streets and throwing them into pits of lions. And there are new ways of ruining their reputations, ruining their careers, ruining their lives. And for good men— good men that in death would be freed of the sorrows of this world— this can be much worse.
Why did the psalmist call them lions? “Dogs” is about as good a name as they deserve. […] The lion is not only strong but cruel; and it is real cruelty which subjects well-meaning men to reproach and misrepresentation. The enemies of Christ and his people are often as cruel as lions, and would slay us if the law permitted them.
This was 150 years ago and might be only getting more true. The dogs, the lions today still seek to destroy. Where 150 years ago the drunkards mocked the well-meaning man, today they have contrived ways to destroy people more systematically. They push ideologies that are contrary to that of Christians. They require all to agree and for those that do not, they come up with new words to throw at them. Homophobic, transphobic, bigot, worse. And, like devils before, they try to convince the world that their ideology is no ideology at all, but just how the world works. Satan doesn’t exist, after all. And the names aren’t the worst of it. They lose meaning. No, they are in fact taking you out of the public square. Your views are not allowed. It’s not safe for you to be around children. They come up with rubrics to weed you out during their hiring processes.
You need not be ashamed to be pelted with the same dirt that was thrown at your Master; and if it should ever come to this, that you should be stripped of everything, and false witnesses should rise up against you, and you should even be condemned as a felon, and taken out to execution, still your lot will not be worse than his.
But our lot? It isn’t worse than that our Master was given.
Nor was your Master alone. Recollect the long line of prophets that went before Christ. Which of them was it that was received with honour? Did they not stone one and slay another with the sword, cut one in pieces with a saw, put others to death with stones? Ye know that the march of the faithful may be tracked by their blood.
Man, Charles. Where’s the hope? In Christ, we are safe, right? They’ll know we are Christians by our… blood trail.
Of all the gallant shows the Roman Empire ever saw, that which excited the populace beyond all things else was to see a family— a man and his wife, perhaps, and a grown-up daughter and son, and three or four children — all marched into the arena, and the big door thrown up, that out might rush the lion and spring upon them, and tear them to pieces. What harm had they done? They had forgiven their enemies. That was one of their great sins. They would not worship the gods of wood and stone. They would not blaspheme the name of Jesus whom they loved, for he had taught them to love one another, and to love all mankind. For such things as this men raised the cry, “Christians to the lions! Christians to the lions!”
Good Christians loved. Worked diligently. Gave to their communities. Adopted children. Helped the homeless. Didn’t blaspheme— to speak of God in an irreverent, impious manner. “They would not worship the gods of wood and stone.” And for that, the streets cried out “Christians to the lions!”
Good Christian, you are not called to be friends with the world. “You may pick up a fashionable religion, and get through the world with it very comfortably; but if you have the true faith you will have to fight for it.”
Just now the merciful hand of providence prevents open persecution, but only let that hand be taken away, and the old spirit will rage again. The seed of the serpent hates the seed of the woman still; and if the old dragon were not chained he would devour the man-child, as he has often tried to do. Do not deceive yourselves, in one form or other the old howl of “Christians to the lions!” would soon be heard in London if almighty power did not sit upon the throne and restrain the wrath of man.
I fear the hand of God is being taken away in the West. The old howl is returning. But while comfort cannot be had in this world for good men, in Christ and His Church it can be.
You should do what your Master did— make his church your father and mother and sister and brother; nay, better still, make Christ all these to you and more. Take the Lord Jesus to be everything that all the dearest of mortals could be and far more.
As I’ve said before, grabbing my instrument and going to church brings enough comfort to get me through my weeks. Go back to Psalm 57. David, holed up in a cave, surrounded by dragons, spears seeking his mortal flesh, grabbed his lyre and belted out worshipful thanksgiving in defiance of the dark.
Christian. Defy the lurking dragons, defy the dark.