My friend and colleague Dave reached me last night with the news. The UK visa authorities are revoking his family’s permission to live in England. Given his wife’s late pregnancy he now needs to close up their Chippenham home and move back to the States in the next two weeks. Similar revocations have hit other mission agencies so the shock is widespread.
Why this abrupt change? Apparently some shifts in government policies were instituted that his mission agency wasn’t meeting. So the agency, after years of service, and others like it are no longer approved to have missionaries in the UK. No appeals are possible.
The whole thing is humbling and unsettling. The visas were expensive and hard to get but they seemed worth the trouble for the promise of stability in planning ministry for days to come. Now that promise—and planning for the next year or two—is a tumbled apple cart.
So let’s chase the matter of disruptions. The image of an upset apple cart describes life for all of us: at some point something related to our work, family, church, or social circumstances has been tipped over. The result? All the related daily events we counted on for security seemed like tossed apples tumbling away in every direction.
Some events are more disruptive than others—those with broken relationships are the worst. But every upset has one feature in common: the cart needs to be turned upright, the apples restacked, and we need to move on.
That may be easier said than done if the cart is full. Dave’s family, for instance, has a full load of apples to restack in a short time: airline tickets to buy; arrangements made to leave a home and to find another in a different country; revised preparations for the coming baby; a change in churches; a need to reconfigure ministry; and more.
But remember that with our disruptions we get to return to a biblical certainty: upheaval always comes with a living faith. Israel’s troubles in the Exodus and Exile are early examples. Jesus, God’s Son, also faced resistance and rejection from the entrenched religious forces of his day until he was finally crucified. The early church faced pressures from the same forces and soon lost James and Stephen.
Paul’s life, especially, was characterized by ongoing disruptions—shipwrecks, beatings, stonings, and more are listed in 2 Corinthians 11—so that he could say well before his eventual martyrdom, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).
So here’s a theme of faith. God’s heart for humanity has and always will be opposed by both overt and covert spiritual resistance. He has an ultimate enemy, Satan, “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). He is perpetually stirring resistance to God and his people. And his efforts will only end with Christ’s return.
In the meantime God calls us to live as Paul lived. A second element in Paul’s crucifixion quote is key, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
So we find the Bible offers a perpetual good-versus-evil opposition: we who trust God will always invite the wrath of an angry world.
And with that we’re reminded that God doesn’t want us to see this world as our home. We’re just passing through an age of rebellion—the age unleashed by Adam’s ambition to live as if he could “be like God.” He turned everything upside down by trusting the serpent’s words rather than God’s word. And we now see what that offered.
So during this period we have the promise that God is with us no matter how challenging our upheavals may be. His Son is our companion and keeper even as the “nations rage” against him and the Father—the reality of Psalm 2.
But there are complexities in all this. The UK government, for instance, shouldn’t be seen as raging against God’s people. Their visa revocations were more procedural, based on broader policies, rather than overtly anti-Christian. Yet those who love Christ do feel a growing resistance to God and what he represents in the Western world. In an earlier day we may have had more help! So let’s call this the covert work of our enemy.
And overt hostility is growing in places where Christianity is more vulnerable. In India, for instance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party—the BJP—is allied with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh movement to form a Hindu-only religious world in India. Christianity, along with Islam, is faced with growing and systematic suppression.
As a result more apple carts will be tipped over. More visas will be revoked and denied. More anger will be expressed against authentic faith. Shall we mention Russia too? Or countries in the Middle East where radical Islam is spreading like a wildfire?
Resistance to Christ is what comes in a fallen world. So our hope is ultimately in eternity. The stability we long for will only arrive then. And then every tear will be dried and faithful love will be a constant. That’s where real truth and justice will reign.
In the meantime we have some apples to restack.