Within the first ten minutes of Broadway musical Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton hits Aaron Burr with a weighty question – “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?” So, in the opening paragraph of this blog post, I’m going to cut to the chase, and ask you the same question. If you stand for nothing, Christian friend, what will you fall for?
You might be wondering what I mean by standing for something. Standing for something means supporting it, championing it, defending and upholding it. As Christians, it is our duty to champion biblical truth. In churches the world over, the hymn “Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!” has been sung countless times, but do we really mean it? Are we really willing to stand up for Jesus? Many want, and are willing, to serve Jesus privately in the comfort of their own homes, on their terms. But are we willing, not only to just believe and champion Jesus and the Gospel message in our homes, but also to stand for it publicly? And more than that, would we be willing to die – or fall – for it?
The Bible is full of accounts of people who took a stand – people who took stands for Jesus. In the Old Testament, Noah took a stand – he trusted God and built an ark while the rest of the world laughed. Esther took a stand – she put her own life on the line to follow God’s leading and to save the lives of her people. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego took a stand – willing to forfeit their lives, entering the fiery furnace instead of conforming to the world and bowing down to the graven image of their country’s leader. Daniel took a stand – he endured the lion’s den, not knowing whether he’d survive or not, as punishment for praying. In the New Testament, John the Baptist took a stand – he proclaimed the coming of Jesus before Jesus made Himself known, risking public popularity. Stephen took a stand – giving his life for the Gospel, refusing to compromise. And Paul took a stand – for truth, for God, suffering “the loss of all things and [counting] them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:8-9, ESV).
One thing that we can take from these accounts is that taking a stand for God sometimes results in persecution in some form. You’ll notice how many of the followers of God listed above lost their lives for taking a stand – they took the fall for their beliefs. However, that level of persecution isn’t so far removed from the experience of Christians today. Many today, on a daily basis, take stands and falls for God. In my teenage years, I volunteered for Christian organisation Open Doors, who seek to raise awareness about and to provide support for Christians who suffer for their faith. Volunteering with Open Doors really opened my eyes to the persecution that is still, and increasingly, rampant. It’s shocking to read of countries in the world today where people are paying the price of their faith in God: their freedom, their families, and sometimes even their lives.
While we’re yet to experience this level of persecution in the western world, persecution in subtler forms are slowly creeping in. Prayer is being banished from schools, Christian businesses are taken to court for abiding by their beliefs, Christians are often the butt of comedians’ jokes, with the world seeing no problem with making a mockery of those who take a public stand for Jesus, and we’re hit with a barrage of TV programmes, films, books and music that blaspheme the very God we worship – something that no other religion is forced to endure. Because in a world where Christians get branded as being “offensive”, Christians have seemingly lost the right to be offended. Countries that once prided themselves on being “Christian” countries now pride themselves on rebelling against God – with it being deemed “cool” to bash the Bible.
And the church, in many ways and place, is letting this happen. The Christian church lies down and takes it by turning a blind eye (both inside and outside the church), avoiding talking about it, and not speaking up when the world mistreats them, often because they do not know what they should say. Yes, the Bible does instruct us to “turn the other cheek” and to exude grace – but there’s a difference between being gracious and being a doormat. You can still stand for truth without being argumentative, because confrontation isn’t always about shouting the other person down. But instead of handling matters in a tactful and respectful way, much of the church does nothing. They remain silent out of fear of rocking the boat. They fear the world. And because of that, our silence deems us as easy targets in a world that rejects God.
But I am done. I am done with not being allowed to be offended and to disagree. This isn’t me saying that I’m going to go barging in, shouting my mouth off and provoking others. What I am saying is that it’s time for a change in the attitudes of the church. I am done with the compromise that goes on inside church doors. Sins are brushed under the carpet and ignored, with long-standing Christians and people who grew up under the church and in Christian homes, and sometimes even church leaders, turning a blind-eye to sin because “if we don’t talk about it, it’s not there. We don’t want to offend”. Some churches even go as far as to let those openly living in sin occupy their pulpits on a Sunday – when did this become okay?
Over the last couple of years in the UK (I can only speak for what I see in the country I live in), the church has traded in being right with God for being right with the world, exchanging biblical truth for being well thought of by the world because “if we become like the world, they’ll want to come to us”. But it’s easier to pull someone off a chair than it is to pull them on, and if the church keeps heading this way, our churches will be unrecognisable. Right now, lines are becoming blurred. Until we get things sorted within the church, and get to a point where we’re taking a stand for Jesus in our churches, we’ll never take a stand in the world. How troubling is the suggestion that a stand for truth should need to be taken within the church.
But what does this mean for us? What can we do? It doesn’t take something big in order to make a stand for God. Ultimately, it all comes down to choices. I don’t need to go whacking my friends over the head with my Bible every time I see them to consider myself as taking a stand. There are many easy, yet effective ways, that we can be intentional about making a stand for the Lord. In next week’s blog, we’ll look at the specific ways that we can do this, and how we can go about taking a stand for God – one with a willingness to both stand and fall for God.