It is at about this time of the year when many churches step up their outreach efforts. Not unexpectedly, opposition to the gospel also intensifies. In many places around the world, persecution takes the form of mass murder and the destruction of church buildings. While violence is less common in most secular societies, anti-christians there still prefer to see Christians silenced – particularly when Christians profess the biblical position on abortion, sexuality, or creation.

One common argument used by secularists on social media demands that Christians keep our religion private. While this is not a new argument, it can take new (sometimes rude) forms on social media. Nonetheless, let us not be discouraged from bringing the truth to those we love.

It is true that Jesus told people to pray in their closets. Lest anyone take this to mean that Jesus taught that religion should be practiced only in private – Jesus also taught that Christians are the light of the world and that Christians are as his witnesses. The reason why he instructed people to pray in private was because pretentious religion was then popular. People were making a show of prayer, but they were truly seeking attention rather than God.

We could also compare this with Daniel’s situation. When everyone was ordered not to pray to God, he continued and did not attempt to hide his routine, and eventually God was glorified. Therefore, it seems that where prayer is popular, we should avoid being seen praying. But where prayer is frowned upon, we should not hide when praying.

Therefore, we also practice our religion in public. James wrote, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Today, it seems so easy to share the gospel – by simply clicking share on social media or clicking send on a large mail-list. However, without building relationships with the hearers, we may well be said to spam the gospel. James teaches that one aspect of religion is to visit orphans and widows (or whoever the needy may be in our context). Really, we are called to build relationships because of the relationship we have with God, who has made Himself our Father.

Finally, we are exhorted to keep ourselves unstained from this world. Much can be elaborated here, but for now, let us not be disheartened when secularists try to silence us or persuade us to be more like the world. There will be opposition when we share the grace and truth of Christ, but Christ has overcome the world.

Our religion is like a candle
It’s good to have light in the darkness
Yet may we be humble and not proud
Freely we received – freely we’ll give

We’ll put it on a stand in public
We do not hide it under baskets
We do not keep it in our bedrooms
We do not store it in our cellars

Let it show the way to our children
Let our light shine before others too
So that they may see our good works and
Glorify our Father in heaven

Religion is like a Candle: Why Christians need not be Silent in a Secular Public Square

TQ grew up in Singapore and now resides in Thailand.

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