It does not take much reading in the newspaper or media sites to realize that our culture is rapidly changing. I am not saying that our culture is going from Christian to secular (that's another discussion); but I do believe that we are seeing less toleration of Christianity, especially among the self-proclaimed tolerant.
Fear sets in, doesn't it? Timidity replaces trust at times. Will the church press on courageously, trusting in Christ's purposes or will we retreat due to the fear that overwhelms us?
This is going to prove to be a pastoral problem in the church. As the church faces this new age of forced-toleration, how ought we respond to those who who suffer under the fear and timidity that may plague our souls?
Martin Bucer (1491-1551), gives us wisdom here. He writes:
Those who become timid, so that the cross and tribulation become too heavy for them, must be addressed kindly and comfortingly, faithfully impressing on them the goodness of God and the salvation of Christ, so that they may recognize and believe that our dear God's intentions towards them are entirely fatherly and faithful in all the sufferings he sends them. They are always to be dissuaded from thinking about their sins and all unhappiness, and to be uplifted into the mercy of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Friends, you will have conversations in the next several weeks and months that will include a confession of fear and timidity from a sincere brother or sister in Christ. This is our time. As those anxieties are brought forth, we must remember to be as shepherds who strengthen the sheep, not disciplining or harsh in our care and speech, but pointing those with a lack of courage or strength to the one whose intentions are always fatherly and faithful. We must respond with kindness and comfort as we point them to the Chief Shepherd of their souls.
Use wisdom in your conversations and discernment as you comfort the lambs of God. Point them to the one who has overcome the world.