Monday, May 11, 2015

Here I Stand

In the 2nd century a man name Justin, a Christian from Samaria, wrote a defense of the Christian faith and sent it to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Christianity was held by many to be a danger to Rome and to the authority of the Emperor. Justin wrote to explain that Christians were not a danger, that they were Rome’s best citizens. History affirms he was right.

Eighteen hundred years later, Christianity is again spoken against by many. In China and India it is regarded as a danger to the state and culture. In America it is considered antagonistic to the public good. Maybe it is time for another Justin. 

I make no claim to be a modern day Justin. But I do believe Christianity deserves a defense. It may not make a difference. Justin’s stand did not make a difference in his day either, and his public defense ended up costing him his life. But his defense created for Christians a framework of reason. It affirmed the reasonableness and rightness of what  they believed and spurred them on to persist in the faith. Maybe that is what is needed today. 

The hot button issues of Justin’s day were the questions of authority and morality. Christians were thought to be a danger to the state because they would not revere the emperor as the supreme authority. They insisted on obeying and worshiping God as sovereign. They were also considered strange if not immoral because their lives and worship were so different from the lifestyle of Rome and the worship in pagan religions.

The hot button issues today are still authority and morality. Christians bow ultimately to one authority, God. Christians follow one set of moral imperatives, those given to us in the word of God, the Bible. Does that make us a danger to society? No. It makes us the best citizens. We are not blown about by the winds of currently popular ideas or cultural change. We are solidly anchored to what is right and good, principles that have stood the test of centuries. And we follow those principles even when the personal cost is great. Our stand on those principles is no threat but to the rule of tyrants.

Not only so, but our presence in any society is a benefit to the public good.

In India Christians are engaged in working for social justice for those who are oppressed by poverty and by the lingering prejudice of the caste system. They rescue young girls who have been enslaved in the sex trade and young boys who have been enslaved in forced labor. They run hospitals and clinics for the poor, providing care at minimum or no cost to people in villages where there is no health care. They respond to disasters such as the recent earthquake in Nepal providing food, shelter, medical care, and assistance in rebuilding. 

In India Christians serve poor communities, developing water supplies and sanitation and teaching better farming techniques in rural villages. These are not foreigners doing this, but Indian Christians. They are India’s best citizens. 

In America the list of benefits Christians provide for our society is, if anything, larger. We provide hospitals and clinics and disaster relief in every emergency from Katrina to the wild fires in California that displaced so many. We work in organizations that are rescuing girls enslaved in prostitution. We provide help to the homeless and a way out for the addict. We man rescue missions and provide food and shelter. We collect food and clothing and distribute it freely to those in need. We qre America's best citizens.

Yet for a growing number of Americans, Christians are just trying to lure the unsuspecting or to recruit the vulnerable. Faith based social services, it is argued, run counter to the modern American value of separation of church and state. Never mind that in almost every instance there is no pressure applied to adopt our faith, and assistance is given without any condition of faith. 

The benefit of Christian social service in America is so great that if it were to be curtailed by law or by changing culture, America, whether the government or non-religious charitable institutions, would not be able to take up the slack. The suffering of the poor would certainly increase.

But are Christians to be trusted? Are they loyal citizens? The record should be more than clear. Christians serve in every branch of the military and in every level of political service from elected officials to volunteers in our local communities. We believe in America. We believe that America was founded upon the values we hold dear, values that came directly or indirectly from the Bible itself.

Christians are involved in politics because we believe in America. Despite the popular opinion, we are found among both Democrats and Republicans. We sometimes disagree even among ourselves as to the best course to follow to preserve America and the Christian values that have made America great. But there is no question that American Christians are pro-America. 

And that is why Christians are willing to stand our ground when American values are threatened. We look around us today and see the values of respect for others and for freedom threatened by a growing centralization of government authority. We fear a big brother government, and rightly so, for in every place where government has become absolute people have suffered. We believe too much in America to stand by quietly. 

We believe God has blessed America with her foundational values. But we believe too much in those same principles, principles we see as biblical as well as historical,  to force those upon anyone. Americans will decide the future. It is their God given right. We only wish to be a voice for the values that made our nation great. 

For this, we are more and more regarded as immoral. When we stand for the values of freedom and life and family we are called bigots or meddlers. When we preach moral standards of faithfulness and purity, we are called hateful. Why?

Christians believe in life. We have been foremost in the right to life movement because we believe that life is a God given gift. We believe no one has the right to take a life, least of all for simple convenience or personal
benefit. We believe an unborn child is not “tissue.” She is a person. He is sacred. They are lives made in the image of God. 

When our culture made a turn toward what we consider self-interest rather than respect for life, we stood for the rights of the unborn. It is our culture too. And we believe the kind of selfishness that has killed millions of unborn children is a crime against God himself. It will have consequences. It has had consequences. We desire not only to save the life of the unborn but to save our culture from those consequences. Is that immoral? 

Yet Christians have been vilified for our attempts to rescue our culture from moral disaster.
When our culture made a turn toward sexual permissiveness and immorality, we spoke up. We believe that sexual immorality whether it is heterosexual or homosexual endangers our society. Pornography, for example, diminishes women. It turns them into objects of lust, abuse, and enslavement. As pornography became mainstream it spread that exploitation into every corner of the culture, from fashion and music and films to the seamy, ugly underworld of sexual slavery, gay bath houses, and pedophilia. We believe we must take a stand. 

Does that make us immoral? Does that make us the enemy? You would think so from the reaction of the press and the murmur on the Internet. But we believe too much in the greatness of the dream of our Christian American forefathers of a just and good society and in the guideline of God’s word to relent. We will speak. We will stand for righteousness because we believe it is right. We will stand for righteousness because we believe it is the only hope for America. 

Perhaps the evil of self-interest and greed that drives our culture will prevail. We pray not. We pray for a return to righteousness across this land. 

But whether we as a culture repent or not, we Christians will continue to stand for righteousness - despite the increasing personal cost. We will continue to speak. We were given no assurances from the Lord that righteousness will prevail. Rather we were forewarned that we would be hated, just as he was hated. 

Jesus himself and Justin, who is called Martyr because of his determination to live by what is true rather than by what is expedient, remain models for us. They took a stand. They  spoke, even though it cost them their lives. And we will speak.

1 comment:

Grammy D said...

This is 'right on' on every level. I have witnessed the downward spiral in our country and in my own family. I feel sad that my grand kids are living in such a dark time in our history. How different our country would be (and the world) if we all joined as the body of Christ - not just individual churches, and prayed continually to our Father in heaven and confessied our sins, repenting from our wicked ways.