The Velvet Prison takes many forms; the consumerization of Christianity (that’s when church and Jesus is all about me), the privatization of religion (for “religion” read “Christianity”), the reigning values (to echo Francis Schaffer) of personal peace and affluence), and Biblical illiteracy within the professing church, to name but a few.
When I hear well-meaning friends predict with assurance that a time of physical persecution will come in the West I can only ask, “Why? Why would anyone have any need to physically persecute people who are already in prison? We are just like the world, we may say we are followers of Jesus Christ but our actions are not in harmony with our words. We play by the world’s rules.”
I recently had a conversation with a coworker that went something like this:
“Frank, it seems that when you are around me that you are a bit nervous.”
“Well Bob, I’m not sure how to act.”
“Why is that Frank?”
“Sometimes I want to say, ‘Praise the Lord it’s good to see you’, but I know that you are not supposed to bring religion into the workplace.”
I may have previously shared about knowing a hospice worker who would not share Jesus with dying people because it was against company policy. While I’m thankful to say that she eventually changed her mind, that remains one of my all-time great examples of what has happened to the way we think and the way we view the lordship of Jesus Christ – His lordship is trumped, more often than not, by the world.
One need not put people in physical prison if you already control their minds and actions – let them feed and clothe and house themselves as long as you control their minds and actions.
I shared a bit with my coworker about winsome and sensitive expression of faith at work and I’ll have some follow-up conversations. Yes, I have been embarrassed by Christian coworkers who are more Tabasco Sauce at work than salt and light, and I have been embarrassed by the work ethic of Christians from time-to-time; but I have also seen many wonderful Christian witnesses in the marketplace that have been characterized by love and concern for others and by a clear articulation of the Gospel in words as well as deeds – contrary to some, we need both – there is no Biblical way around it. Jesus talks about those who are ashamed of Me and My words.
The First Century proclamation of the Gospel contains the declaration that Jesus is Lord, that He has all power and authority, that He is the Son of God and that our citizenship is in heaven. To the First Century hearer in the Roman Empire this proclamation is in juxtaposition to the claims of the Emperor and his empire – for the Emperor claimed to have all power and authority, he claimed to be a son of god, and the empire claimed all the loyalty of its citizens. The early Christians knew that they could have but one lord, I wonder if we know that?