I wonder how John the Baptist would be treated today. I know that it seems like a strange place to start...but follow me here.
John the Baptist had basically one job...to prepare the way for the Lord (see Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-17; John 1:19-28; Isaiah 40:3). And he had one message...Repent!
People came from all around in anticipation of the Lord's coming. So they asked questions of John in practical terms to understand what "repentance" was. He told the crowds to be generous with what they had to the poor (Luke 3:10-11). He told the tax collectors, who were used to a corrupt and unrighteous culture, to only collect what was required of Rome and not line their pockets (Luke 3:12-13). He told the soldiers to practice justice by not extorting money through force or false accusation and contentment through living on the wages given them.
But he crossed a cultural line when he told King Herod that it was wrong to have his brother's wife (Matthew 14:3-5; Mark 6:17-18; Luke 3:17-18). Luke even records that he confronted Herod with "all the evil things that Herod had done". However, the one that stung the most was that it wasn't right for him to have his brother's wife. Herodias, Herod's wife, held such a grudge against John the Baptist that she wanted to put him to death (Luke 3:19-20).
If John the Baptist had just recanted, he probably could have had his life spared.
You know, that whole "wife thing"...my bad, it's totally okay.
It's okay because you really aren't believers in God, so I can't judge you by His standard.
It's okay because you really feel love for one another and that's all that matters.
It's okay because our culture has evolved to include this as okay.
It's okay because you are in power and what you say goes.
It's okay because saying that you are wrong creates a trigger warning and makes you feel bad...and we can't have that.
It's okay because telling people that you are wrong for living this way creates an atmosphere of violence against you that I am responsible for.
It's okay because my forefathers did far worse things than you did, so I should really be the one apologizing.
It's okay because you should have the freedom to live as you want without anyone telling you that you are wrong.
But John the Baptist couldn't do that. If he did that he would be perverting righteousness, destroying the meaning of repentance and violating his mission given by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.
He would be creating a false witness by saying that God is good with any way that you want to live, just so long as you believe in Him. He would be creating a false witness by apologizing for upholding God's standard and calling His standard sin. He would be creating a false witness by saying that he was doing something wrong, when he was doing what was right by the only standard that truly matters...God's.
In order to fulfill God's mission, he just couldn't cave to the pressure, no matter how much it would cost him.
And neither can we...
Jesus said "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake...", which means that proclaiming righteousness is part of that package when proclaiming Christ. Not everyone is going to be okay with that. Jesus even tells us what their reaction will be...[you will be] reviled, persecuted and falsely accused of all kinds of evil.
In the wake of recent events, the temptation many Christians have is to remain silent on the righteous standard of God. We are being told that by proclaiming or defending this standard, we are actually inciting violence, showing how bigoted and hateful we are and have no idea what God's love really entails.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
You can't cut out righteousness and be led to repentance. It's a non-starter. It leaves people in the same state you found them in...no closer to a God, who wishes reconciliation through repentance and belief in Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist was killed because the culture wanted his voice about God's righteousness silenced.
Many today would say that Christians can't compare the situation because we aren't being killed for our faith in America. However, the goal of the current cultural climate is the same, to silence the righteous standard of God. If this current pressure doesn't work, you can be sure stronger methods are just around the corner. This is how persecution starts...by claiming that it really doesn't exist. This is why Jesus included reviling, persecuting and false accusations in the same statement so we would know what it is when we encounter it, and also to know to listen to His voice more than the voice of the culture around us for truth.
To a culture that is perishing, we must proclaim the righteousness of God so that they may have a hope of repentance and true faith in Jesus Christ. We can't listen to the false accusations that will be hurled our way, whose origin is ultimately found in the father of lies and the accuser of the brethren (John 8:44; Rev. 12:10). This is the only way to fulfill the mission God has given us (Matthew 28:18-20).
And in order to fulfill God's mission, we can't cave to the pressure, no matter how much it may cost us.