Monday, July 28, 2008

Stand up and be counted

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads (Rev. 14:1).

Written on their foreheads! For all the world to see! Plainly and publically aligned with Christ.

This reminds me of the movie that I have been most captivated by recently— Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce’s crusade to abolish the slave trade in England. There is a defining moment when Wilberforce, as a young man, stood on a table in the middle of a lounge and sang John Newton’s newly penned song “Amazing Grace” to an astonished group of fellow Members of Parliament.

Shortly thereafter, he began to struggle with the tension between the desire to passionately serve God and the call of a brilliant career in public service. According to the movie (I have yet to read a biography and check out the historicity of this), several key individuals—including his former pastor, John Newton—point out that there seemed to be a need for him to do both. And so began his progress against the overwhelming tide of opinion and the entrenched social and economic system. His hard-working fact-finding and truth-disseminating group of associates were referred to as a “band of mendicant preachers.” He trod the dangerous line of being considered a seditious rebel. It was not the most enjoyable journey, but he was unhindered by compromise, and he had the satisfaction of being true to God, to the downtrodden, and to himself.

His story is not only inspiring but instructional. We, too, as Christians want to run unhindered with Christ. But there are many questions. Some of mine have been: If one is an avowed Christian, does that mean that one’s involvement in the world must be according to the narrowly defined agenda of a predominant group of Christians? Does that mean that one has to go around studiously dropping God’s name whenever one is before a microphone? No, I have come to realize, one does not need to look for opportunities to make one’s stand and convictions known—one just needs to not shy away from speaking when those opportunities arise—and they will, by God’s perfect design. When one’s allegiance to Christ becomes known, many of the public will immediately think “Oh, you’re one of them—those preachy, belligerent Christians.” So what? God is well able to do his work with or without a “good reputation.” And, in the end, his glory will be seen far and wide.

But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him (Heb. 10:38).

A habit of “shrinking back” is a terrible prison. It must also be a sin, judging from the above verse. If it is a sin, it is something from which Jesus is able to deliver us. I want to be a fully “righteous one” who lives “by faith.” How about you?

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