The Old Atlanta Stockade was operated as a prison from 1896 to 1924. It housed debtors and children alongside hardened criminals. In the 1950’s, skeletal remains of 50 people were found on the site, the final explanation of many who ‘disappeared’ from the infamous prison. In the 1980’s, Renny Scott and Bob Lupton led the effort to rebuild the blighted building as part of a Christian ministry to a low income neighborhood. The grand re-opening was on an Easter Sunday, and the paper ran a photo captioned, “He is risen, indeed.”
Providing hope and life where there was once pain and death is indeed the story of the resurrection of Christ. An unredeemed world is why He came, so no surprise when cultures do not embrace Him or us, His ambassadors. As Christians in a fallen world, we’ve always been operating ‘behind enemy lines.’ The work of Benedictine monks who preserved Christian truth and knowledge after Rome fell, and of modern Chinese house churches that defy communist threats, and of Christians in America who hold seemingly ‘freakish’ views about unborn children and natural marriage, is the same: to share in the recreating, redeeming, restoring work of God.
As the world turns, some things stay the same. Russell Moore wrote in the Washington Post, “The Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is still calling the universe toward his kingdom.” He was urging optimism despite a certain, recent, landmark ruling that has religious freedom implications.
Of course some Christians tend to embrace whatever the culture decides is the next righteous thing, claiming a loving God would not object to it. Our Scripture says “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” G. K. Chesterton said to adapt to a changing morality tries “to prove that we fit into the world. The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do not fit into the world.”
Yet we are called to serve a world we are unfit for. Moore’s article continues, “While this decision will ultimately hurt many people and families and civilization itself, the gospel doesn’t need “family values” to flourish. In fact, the church often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it.” It thrives because we have more work to do. For sure, the more culture rejects Biblical morality, the more likely will there be refugees from the chaos. It won’t be the first time.
Chesterton explained that God wrote “a play he had planned as perfect, but which had necessarily been left to human actors and stage-managers, who had since made a great mess of it.” We can be happy we are in the play, but honest in our review of it. We are on the right side of history as we have the truth, the Holy Spirit, and divine Providence. We can be optimistic that even if we become cultural outcasts we can still be part of the narrative today, and will be citizens of heaven forever.