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A Time For Courage

by Bob Russell

Gleaned from a recent edition of www.bobrussell.org    Reprinted With Permission

 

Bob Russell1 Recently, Michelle Obama encouraged churches to be bold in taking a political stand. The wife of the President of the United States told the congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville Tennessee, “To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better—no place better,.”

The First Lady defended her position by saying, “Because ultimately, these are not just political issues – they are moral issues. “They’re issues that have to do with human dignity and human potential, and the future we want for our kids and our grandkids.”

I agree with her. If Jesus Christ is Lord of all, He should be Lord of our stand on political issues. Too many preachers are afraid to speak up, not just because they fear their church might lose its tax-exempt status but because some church members will protest, “You shouldn’t mix politics and religion,”, and threaten to leave.

But as the Roman Catholic Church has recently demonstrated, when the government infringes on moral and spiritual issues we have an obligation to speak up. Religious freedom is not just a political issue. Gay marriage is not just a political issue. The right of the unborn to live is not just a political issue. Preachers who fail to speak out on these topics are lacking in moral courage.

I’ve just read the book Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. I’ve often wondered where the German church was during the 1930’s when Hitler and the Nazi’s rapidly ascended to power. This excellent book explains what happened.

One example explains why Deitrich Bonhoeffer refused to sign the Bethel Confession in 1933. “As would happen so often in the future, he was deeply disappointed in the inability of his fellow Christians to take a definite stand. They always erred on the side of conceding too much, of trying too hard to ingratiate themselves with their opponents.” That’s us! It seems to me most evangelical churches in America try too hard to ingratiate themselves with the world.

If the world sees us as being too political we avoid taking a stand on anything that sounds even remotely political, though the country is falling apart around us.

If the world sees the church as imposing its values on people we bend over backwards never to sound judgmental.

If the world accuses us of being anti-intellectual, we’ll broaden our interpretation of Scripture to make room for theistic evolution.

If the world is offended by the symbol of a cross we’ll take it down and if they’re turned off by the term “church,” we’ll not call it a church.

If the world has a negative impression of Christians, we’ll just be so kind to them without even mentioning Jesus’ name that they will like us again.

We’re so threatened by the world that we wind up letting the culture set our agenda. However, we’re not promised victory by impressing the world that we’re congenial or cool. We’re promised victory by exalting Jesus Christ and Him crucified—which is always a stumbling block and an offense to the world.

I liked John Wooden’s philosophy when he was coaching UCLA to ten national championships. He said he didn’t spend much time scouting his opposition. He concentrated on doing what his team did best and let the opposition worry about them. Admittedly, that was easier for him to say because he usually had superior talent.

Instead of spending so much time speculating about how the culture will respond to us we need to remember that “Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.” We need to have such confidence in the awesome power of the Holy Spirit that the world worries about countering us rather than vice versa.

John the Baptist didn’t worry much about being labeled too political. He boldly declared, “ ‘Herod, it’s not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”. Jesus did not say, “John, you’re getting into politics and that’s not our territory.” You worry about the sins of those walking out of the Jordan River. Let the world be the world.” On the contrary, Jesus said, “‘No greater man was born to woman than John the Baptist.”

This week at the North American Christian Convention in Orlando, Florida, I’m to address recent Bible College graduates who are being commissioned to preach the gospel. Please pray for me as I plan to challenge them to be bolder in proclaiming God’s truth.

The world and some in their congregation will pressure them to soften the message so they won’t feel “awkward”. But we need ministers to reverse the current trend, to be strong and courageous and so convinced the battle is the Lord’s that they will fear no evil. For the Lord our God will go with us and if the Lord is with us who can be against us?

 

Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky.




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10