Are We Cowards or Are We Christians?
It will never happen here…
On May 10, 2012, President Obama announced his support for the redefinition of marriage. According to the White House Archives, this was his reasoning for the shift:
[Obama] sat around his kitchen table with Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. As the President said during the interview, “it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them. And frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change of perspective -- not wanting to somehow explain to your child why somebody should be treated differently when it comes to eyes of the law.”
Obama’s decision was a defining moment for me in my faith. I can still remember where I was when I learned the news. I was sitting in Colorado Springs, having just celebrated my anniversary with my wife, and over the past few weeks we had been entertaining the idea of seminary. But this news meant that the world would look very different after graduation.
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Reading the headlines and watching clips of the President affirm a disordered view of marriage, I realized two things: first, going to seminary would incur a responsibility to tell the truth in a culture of political persecution. Second, the divisions within Christianity were not hairline fractures, but deep fissures we had covered with a kind of post-modern civility. Immediately after hearing the President’s announcement, I started to call my friends to share my shock.
My friend answered the phone. I’m sure I had a bit of panic in my voice. The ramifications of the political realities were unfolding in my mind’s eye faster than I could speak. After finishing my frantic speculations about the President’s redefinition of marriage, I heard snickering in the background of the call, and it was more than one person. I had been put on speaker phone without my knowledge, and in my anxiety I had not noticed that I now had an audience.
“That’s not going to happen. You’re just overthinking it”, my friend said. The peanut gallery also began to chime in, “It’s not that big of a deal. No one is going to persecute churches. Stop overreacting.” Little did we know, the seeds for persecution would be sown a few months later. The year that President Obama changed his position on marriage was the same year that small business owners would begin experiencing the initial advances of persecution
Three years later, we would see Time Magazine run this “Idea” piece titled, “Now's the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions”. At this time I was halfway through my seminary education, and articles on Transspecies, like interviews with “Human pups”, began to circulate the internet regularly.
A few years later, I was eating lunch with one of the friends who had been on the call, and the topic of the political climate and persecution of Christians came up again. This time neither of us were laughing. We began to discuss the demise of our culture and way of life. It was like discussing the life of a friend whose cancer had become more aggressive than anyone had expected. He said, “I just never thought that it would happen this fast.”
What do you want me to do about it?
The first enemy we faced was ignorance, but reality has dispelled its bliss. Vices are like hydras: cut off the head, and two more take its place. In this case, the head was ignorance, and the two that have replaced it are apathy and anxiety. Today, no one doubts that there is an animosity against Christians. If you bring up the latest Church Killer Bills, like the one recently passed in the Michigan Congress (59-50), you’re met with the objection, “Well if it’s as bad as you say it is, then what are we supposed to do?!” Or they say “Well surely the courts will strike it down.” Regardless, they are no longer able to deny that something very troubling is happening in their country.
Their responses reflect that they are no longer downplaying the reality of political persecutions. No more mocking of fearful Christians as exaggerating the state of affairs. You don’t have to be a political science major to know that a country that believes that a man can become a woman is not destined for a long and flourishing future with freedom and prosperity as its foundation.
Yet, these Christians still continue to offer the anti-reality corporations their best talents and efforts. They claim they are plundering Babylon. No friend, you’re not plundering Babylon, it’s plundering you. You are serving those that openly wish to oppress your children and grandchildren with policies that are explicitly anti-Christian. They ask you to sear your conscience, and in return give you comfort.
The second person suffers from anxiety. They are constantly on their phones, looking for the latest secret knowledge about the aliens, turning the frogs gay, or worried about WWIII. Their aim is not comfort, but surviving. They may fantasize about a commune off the grid, away from those vile pagans that would seek to wield government power to destroy them. Survivalists are those who abandon their responsibility to their city in exchange for a false sense of security. They believe that being the last one standing is superior to suffering for the Truth. Their anxiety misplaces their energies, not into the city or corporate comforts, but into the belief that one’s days are numbered by his own cunning, and not by God.
Both of these fall prey to cowardice.
I know where liars go, but where do cowards go?
We don’t talk much of cowardice in the Christian faith. Probably because most of us are cowards. I know that my comfort zone is behind a computer, or reading a book with cup of coffee in hand. Courage is not my beverage of choice. But what happens when we become cowards?
But as for the cowards…and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. That is the second death.
Revelation 21:8 (NET)
The list of degenerates that will be thrown into the lake of fire is long, but it begins with cowards and ends with liars. When we become cowards, we slowly become… unbelievers, detestable persons, murders, sexually immoral, practitioners of magic (occult), idol worshipers, and finally, liars.
Out of fear, we begin to cower and say evil is good and good evil. Not anything crazy, just the “secondary” issues. Soon, we find ourselves standing at the fire pit, and the gentiles are asking us, “Do you know Him?”
As fear creeps in, we Christians might say, “It’s not good to assemble for right now. We could get someone sick.” Or “Paul may have said ‘Don’t forsake the assembly of the brethren’, but he obviously thought we should listen to the Government on how we run our churches.” Or “It’s not good to offend someone, I know they are a man, but it’s better to be polite than to tell the truth. After all, I’m supposed to love my neighbor, and if I was delusional, I wouldn’t want someone to tell me!”
With every inch we give, they take two more. The interrogations never stop, but the momentum is more than we can handle, and the false promise that if we just give a little more to the mob, maybe they’ll stop becomes appealing. The fire get’s hotter, and the questions come more often:
“You sound like a Christian, but you’re for men marrying men, right? “
“You’re not gonna go to church during the pandemic, right?”
“You’re gonna use my kids pronouns, right?”
“You don’t think that Jesus is the only way, right?
“You don’t love God more than your neighbor, right?
Off in the distance, we hear a rooster crow, and the eyes of our Lord pierces the veil of this thin reality, and we know we have failed him. Or so it might go. This battle is not over yet. There are still many who have not fallen to the mobs.
Wisdom is still in play in all these questions, just because you’re cornered doesn’t mean that God wants you to be a fool. Brashness should not be confused with courage. Complacency is a temptation. But it is only wisdom that will preserve us in the coming darkness. But paradoxically, in order to obtain wisdom we must first obtain a healthy fear of God. We must cower before our King if we are to be counted worthy of his service.
Survival is not the goal
If fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, then foolishness is the beginning of cowardice. If we are going to win— not survive — then we need wisdom. When we compare the end of Revelation and with the passage on wisdom and folly in Proverbs, it’s interesting to note the parallel between what the victorious receive from the Alpha and Omega, and what Folly offers to the simple.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding…Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing. “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.
Proverbs 9:10; 13-18
Folly offers “stolen waters” to quench your thirst. But in Revelation we are told that the victorious will drink, not stolen waters, but the water of life.
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
— Revelation 21:6 (NET)
We are called to endure, but what will be our reward for rejecting Folly’s sweet waters? Our thirst will be quenched by the Alpha and the Omega: we will receive the water of life. All victors will be satisfied. Our suffering will not be in vain.
As the pressures in our culture grow, our thirst for the holy water will become unbearable. Our souls will ache, and our bodies may break. To make matters worse, if we are are not courageous, and we cave to Folly’s temptation, we will drink the waters of death, and our inheritance will not be the Kingdom of Heaven; it will be an Empire of Dirt.
There is a Greek Proverb I think about often, especially when I look at my kids. “The wise man plants trees in whose shade he knows he shall never sit.” This was “The Way” of Christians in the early church. The Christian life involves not merely suffering of sickness, but especially suffering at the hands of those that God calls his enemies. We don’t have to contemplate long and hard what a coward looks like, nor do we need to contemplate what God will do should we abandon him.
As Christ begins his journey to Golgotha, Christ’s words “take up your cross and follow me” strikes fear into the heart of every disciple. As his body is bleeding, his thorny crown puncturing his skull, his back bloody with the stripes for our transgressions, Christ falls under the weight of the cross. Peter had promised to be there for Christ, but had abandoned his king. In this moment, Peter’s faith was nothing more than sand. Can we say we would do much better?
But God’s plans are not to be thwarted by frail wills. So God will find another. His name is Simon of Cyrene. He is not the Simon that promised to stay by Christ’s side, but he is a Simon well known to Christians today. Some commentators believe he may have converted after this event.
This political season, many are hoping that the 2024 election will lead to a turning point, a reprieve from the woke mobs, and political persecutions. It will not. We have forgotten God. Even the churches have no fear of him. Yet, we are not to lose hope. God is in control, but we must decide where we will be when the persecution intensifies. Will be hiding in the crowds, setting up shop in the woods, pretending we don’t know Him in the workplaces? God will accomplish his plan, and there is nothing we can do to thwart his plan. Which Simon are we going to be? Are we Cowards or are we Christians?
For Reflection: Faith of Our Fathers
Faith of our fathers living still, In spite of dungeon, fire and sword; O how our hearts beat high with joy, Whene'er we hear that glorious Word Our fathers, chained in prisons dark, Were still in heart and conscience free; And truly blest would be our fate, If we, like them, should die for Thee. Faith of our fathers, faith and prayer Shall win all nations unto Thee; And through the truth that comes from God, We all shall then indeed be free. Faith of our fathers, we will love Both friend and foe in all our strife, And preach Thee, too, as love knows how, By kindly words and virtuous life. Faith of our fathers, holy faith. We will be true to Thee till death.
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