Rev. Nathan Decker, pastor of Grandville PRC in Grandville, Michigan

As a Christian pastor and preacher, a common theme upon which I ponder is how believers in the church, myself included as a minister of the gospel, will experience the attack of the enemies of Christ. The Scriptures are clear: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). In describing the citizens of the kingdom of God, Jesus says: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). The entire teaching of the New Testament Scriptures on the last days and the coming of Antichrist and his kingdom is a testimony to the pressure and hurt that the people of God will experience as they anticipate the coming of our Savior. The truth of the Scriptures in this regard is clear.

But in meditating upon and teaching that truth, the question is faced: how specifically might we as Christians begin actually to experience the pressure and persecution? It is easy to point out how the general direction of our nation and our government’s policies are becoming increasingly anti-Christian, paving the way for such persecution. That line of thinking, although accurate, places the opposition in the future. But what about now? How might we experience it today, and what must we be prepared for? Those questions are more challenging to answer, as many who read the Standard Bearer still experience freedom from overt persecution against the church.

In light of these questions, I would like to comment briefly on events regarding Grace Christian School, located in Valrico, Florida. I knew nothing about this school before reading about what happened there, which is partly what drew me to this story. From everything I could ascertain, there was nothing unique about the school. It was an ordinary private Christian school with policies and practices that the school believed conformed to the Word of God. What occurred at the school took place simply because an NBC news reporter chose to write a story about the school and its policy, resulting in a firestorm. One of the lessons to be learned, of which we are becoming increasingly aware in this age of social media and connectivity, is how almost anyone (news reporter or not) can cause a stir publicly concerning nearly anything. This tactic may be increasingly used to pressure and hurt Christian institutions and God’s people.

The title of the NBC article was “Florida Christian school says it will only refer to students by ‘biological gender,’ asks gay and transgender students to leave.”1 The reporter wrote the story after receiving a copy of an email from the administrator, Barry McKeen, written to the parents of students outlining the school’s standing policy regarding human sexuality. The following are pertinent parts of the email, some of which were quoted in the NBC article:

We believe that God created mankind in His image: male (man) and female (woman), sexually different but with equal dignity.

Therefore, one’s biological sex must be affirmed, and no attempts should be made to physically change, alter, or disagree with one’s biological gender—including, but not limited to, elective sex reassignment, transvestite, transgender, or non-binary gender fluid acts of conduct (Gen. 1:26-28). Students in school will be referred to by the gender on their birth certificate and be referenced in name in the same fashion.

We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgender identity/lifestyle, selfidentification, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography are sinful in the sight of God and the church (Gen. 2:24; Lev. 18:1-30; Rom. 1:26-29; I Cor. 5:1; I Cor. 6:9; I Thess. 4:2-7). Students who are found participating in these lifestyles will be asked to leave the school immediately.

As is evident from these quotations, the policy is an explanation of the Word of God concerning human sexuality. It is a policy that had been in place for many years at the school. The parents were aware of the meaning and implications of the policy. It was a policy the school took seriously to conform to in teaching and practice. And it is a policy, or one similar in content, that many Christian schools would have throughout the country. Here is the point: all it took was a reporter to get his hands on the email, talk to a few former students at the school who confirmed by experience the veracity of the policy, and write a public article. The result: an otherwise normal Christian school is brought into the spotlight, and the pressure of the world is experienced in a very real way.

The school administrator chose not to talk on the record to the reporter. However, he issued a Facebook video message in response to the NBC article, outlining where the NBC article contained truth, correcting what was false, further explaining the school’s position, and making clear that he stands first before God and His Word of truth. The school generally, and the administrator specifically, experienced severe pushback. Commenting on the aftermath, the administrator indicated that the school “fielded hundreds, probably thousands, of phone calls Thursday, Friday, over the weekend, with just some of the most outrageous things: People threatening to burn my house down, threatening to kill my family.”2 The school for a short period even had to bring in a “massive law enforcement” presence to protect students and staff from potential threats.3 In the end, the school remained firm in its position.

Here are a few concluding thoughts.

The first is the necessity of understanding that this could happen to any school or Christian institution at any time. This does not mean we fear the “what if.” But it does mean that we live in the consciousness that, in this age of social media and the rapid spread of information, it could happen anywhere over the truth of human sexuality or any other biblical truth.

The second, in light of the above, is that we would do well to reflect on what we would do if pressure from the outside came upon the Christian institutions of which we are part. It is impossible to prepare thoroughly for the unknown. But that does not mean there is no wisdom in considering carefully how we would respond. Would we talk to the press officially? If so, why? If not, why? How would we communicate the truth boldly and with conviction, in a spirit of love and humility, acknowledging our sinfulness and need for Jesus Christ?

And third, remember that these situations are always opportunities, not to be squandered or misused. These are God-given occasions to direct other people’s eyes away from the institution and people that are being pressured and to the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth that reflects His glory. Christians, in the face of pressure and persecution, exhibiting Christ-like humility and Spirit-empowered boldness is the shining of gospel light. And these are opportunities for that light to shine most brightly. May God grant us grace, in all circumstances and at all times, to let our light shine.

1 https: / /www. nbcnews.com/ news / u s – news / f lorida-school-will-only-refer-students-biological-gender-rcna43545.

2 https://www.dailysignal.com/2022/08/25/god-has-spokenchurch- run-school-stands-firm-amid-death-threats.

3 https: / /www. foxnews.com/us /christian- school -refuses- change-long-held-policy-excluding-sexual-behavior-alleged- death-threats.