“He who is not with Me is against Me and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Matthew 12:30
As a native son of Texas, I have always been mesmerized by a story told about Col. William Barrett Travis. He was described as taking his sword and drawing a line in the sand, in front of the remaining battle weary veterans of the siege of the Alamo. In the final hours of the 13 day siege of March 1836, Travis gave the defenders of the mission a choice. They had to choose between taking a chance at escaping through the Mexican lines or accepting their fate. They would eventually be faced by an overwhelming attack of the enemy. The story tells of the bed-ridden Jim Bowie asking to be carried across the line so he could join his comrades. Revisionists have tried to discredit the accuracy of the story and to devalue the the sacrifice that followed. Be that as it may, everyone agrees that not one of those who chose to stay survived to tell if the story was accurate or not. They stayed and died, line or no line. “The rest”, as they say, “…is history.”
If history cannot be changed, it certainly can be revised to make it more politically correct. Truth often becomes a pawn in any cultural chess game between two opposing view points. As the stakes get higher and the resentment intensifies, players evolve into combatants willing to go to the mat. The game turns into a death match in the arena of ideas. The end of the evolutionary process is a revolutionary conflict that takes no prisoners.
It has never been appropriate to use the bully pulpit as a catalytic converter to sound an alarm by raising a false dilemma. Neither should it be a platform for raising revenue for every cultural cause or legitimate concern under the sun. Over the past 30 years, the family policy boys have raised a great deal of concern, and a ton of money. They call for prayers to go to God, but they ask for all the checks to be sent to them. After all is said and done, more has been said than done.
He who dies on every cross is sure to live a very short life. The more seasoned veterans of the culture wars realize they can only die on one cross, not one at a time…just one. They choose wisely, giving their lives to one great cause. Paul came to a similar singular conclusion, when he said, “This one thing I do.” (Philippians 3:13) His statement is a far cry from the muddled thinking, politically correct posturing and mixed up priorities of contemporary Christian leaders. It can be said of those who spread themselves a mile wide and an inch deep racing to get to any open microphone to speak on every “passion of the month,”…”These many things I dabble at.”
Culture warriors from the left and the right constantly shout, “Do the right thing!” They bully those who resist them with the dire warning that to do less is to risk coming down on the wrong side of history. The issues change, but the rhetoric doesn’t. The problem with doing the right thing is made more difficult by the consequences that come from purging the concept of right and wrong from the arena of ideas. For decades situation ethics, moral relativism, cultural diversity, and Biblical illiteracy have been brewing in the body politic. The result is a toxic “Molotav” cocktail that has been ignited into a combustible creation of chaos and confusion over right and wrong.
God is no longer considered to be the absolute authority of what is right and wrong, so that leaves man-made law as the final line drawn between two opposing forces. The fallacy of this concept is exposed when the line keeps moving, mobilized by every whim of public opinion, and fed by the latest celebrity endorsement. The mirage of evolving to a higher level of understanding, by lowering the standard of living at the same time, is nothing new. The ancient people of Israel were admonished to avoid making up life as they went along or making God in their own image. As they prepared themselves to enter the land of Promise, they were warned about the danger of buying into the deeply ingrained lies of the pagan cultures they would encounter. They would be tempted to believe God was holding out on them, and denying their right of free expression. God’s people have always benefited from timely warnings to stop taking themselves so seriously. Light-weight anchor points of personal preference and public opinion are poor substitutes for God’s moral compass.
“You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” Deuteronomy 12:8
Even after the people of Israel settled into the land God gave them, they still had a tendency to ignore His advice. When they became their own standard of right and wrong, it was never a pretty picture. God has never been pleased by looking at people who are full of themselves. Loving His creation did not lead God to leave them alone. Accepting people for who they are should never be confused with a benign neglect that leaves them just the way they are, separated from God. Those who set themselves up as the final authority should take no compliment nor receive any commendation for behavior that can be described as…
“Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6 & 21:25
The ancient Hebrews were not ignorant of the truth. As direct descendants of the families who received “The Ten Commandments,” they knew God’s Word. They just didn’t want to be bound to it. By their own willful disobedience, they turned God’s commandments from a moral imperative to a nostalgic list of “Ten Suggestions.” The silver lining in this cloud of corporate confusion was their full knowledge that God existed, and that He had a set of laws for them to follow. They were not atheists, secularists, humanists, or agnostics with no deep belief in God. They were revolutionists leading a rebellion against God’s authority over them. The history of redemption is filled with testimonies of people who turned from God, but returned to HIS Story. When people come to the end of themselves, and get turned around, they are restored to right standing with God. This is the only way for them to land on the right side of HIS Story.
Today the contemporary culture has been stripped of a belief in God. There is no respect for, or even a basic knowledge of what He said. Based on the elevated virtue of the evolution of the open mind, what was once considered wrong is now considered right. Once the stigma of wrong is removed, it is a brief slide down the slippery slope for a right that was once considered to be wrong to evolve into a civil right.
Perhaps the most heart-breaking evolution in the 21st Century is revealed by the following statistic. Over 80 percent of the young people who have attended evangelical churches, never return after they turn 18 years of age. Something is terribly foreboding about that stat, as it is applied to the church. The impact of it is equally alarming when it is played out in contemporary culture. Those who reject the relevance of the church eventually discard the Word of God as the final authority on moral standards or social contracts.
It should come as no surprise that there is a rising tide of support for the expression of open-mindedness. Tolerance for the rights of those engaged in a host of detours from Biblical standards of morality is the new expression of Christian compassion and courage. Even those who were once considered orthodox Christians have felt comfortable redefining the meaning of Christ follower, and redesigning the image of God. Priority is now placed on being open-minded to behavior that God clearly defined as sin. Great effort is made to avoid appearing as a judge of behavior that doesn’t appear to the fellowship of the evolved to do them any harm. They have traded a public expression of honor, for the image of God, for one that elevates their own self-image. The Holy has been kicked to the curb by the hip. In a culture that considers advocates of God’s absolutes to be bigots, Christians are under mounting pressure to just keep their opinions to themselves. Even churches are no longer a safe place to expect God’s Word to get a fair hearing. It is ransacked for references that are taken out of context to ridicule any effort to give what God calls right the respect it deserves. Social network sites are the new bully pulpits for social justice.The internet, Facebook, Main Stream Media polls, Twitter, and the blogosphere give critics of God’s standards a powerful and relentless public forum, but they are not holding sway in the privacy of the voting booth. The secret ballot still remains the clearest line between right and wrong and the final refuge from the thugs who enforce political correctness.
In Antioch, the early church turned the slur of being called “Christians” into a badge of honor. In the 20th Century the homosexual community followed suit, and in less than 50 years they transformed the word “gay” into their preferred banner of identification. Perhaps the lines being drawn in the 21st Century culture war will require Christians to embrace and baptize the word “bigot.” When forced with extinction, the early Christians chose distinction. Their passion for purity gave the word “martyr” a new name. In the 1st Century, this word became synonymous for Christian witnesses who embraced death before dishonoring the name or reputation of their Lord. Perhaps 50 years from now the word “bigot” will receive a new and elevated meaning of “death before dishonor.” Time will tell.
The kind of witness needed in the 21st Century must know where to draw the line. Surely there can be a clear distinction and a healthy alternative between the two extremes currently expressed by Christians caught in a crossfire of the culture wars. The challenge must be met. Christian purity is not well-served by a shameless rejection of the authority of God’s Word. Churches leading big group hugs and landing slobbery kisses on behavior God calls still calls sin, bring no honor to Him. On the other hand, there is nothing to be gained by animated advocates of hate getting lathered up and slinging sweat condemning “the love that dare not speak its name.” Shedding more heat than light may burn people at the stake, but it rarely leads them out of the darkness.
The words of Oswald Chambers give great guidance to those tempted to get side-tracked from their one passion in life. The fog of the culture wars has a way of clouding one’s confidence in ultimate victory. Fear often leads to a hate for the sinner along with the sin. Faith leads to prayer for God’s discernment, and a compassionate concern for a change in the condition of the sinner. Prayer is not a hammer to be pounded over the head of someone moving in the wrong direction. It is a tool best used to build a bridge to connect a lost person to “The Way” back home. It is hard to hate those being prayed for, not impossible, just harder. Pray anyway. Beating a person up, while tearing their position down is not a healthy expression of God’s passion and purpose. Any confrontation must be preceded by intercession to receive His direction, protection and correction. These words of wisdom were spoken 100 years ago to believers tempted to tear down those they should be lifting up.
“Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault-finding.” Oswald Chambers
Those who know they are in the right and now live in the light would do well to recall that there was a time when they were wrong and trapped in the darkness. Paul wrote to a breathless church suffocated by the contemporary culture. No one transferred their membership to the First Baptist Church of Corinth. They came with no letter of commendation, but were called out of the depths of depravity. The smell of the fight was fresh in their nostrils, and the screams of hell could still be heard on the street right outside the door of the church. The early church was not marked by a steeple, but by a people set apart by God. They had been rescued from the streets of one of the most depraved cities in the Roman Empire. Corinth was the crossroads of the world, and the sewer through which every kind of sin freely flowed. However, even this earliest gathering of rescued believers had to be reminded,
“…neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”Such were some of you.” I Corinthians 6:11
There is great promise in these five little words, “Such were some of you.” They described people who were moving in the wrong direction, until the love of Jesus stopped them in their tracks and turned them around. The membership of the early church was not filled with those who had evolved, but with those who had revolved. Their lives had been turned around by Jesus. They once had been moving in the wrong direction, but then one day God’s Spirit released His power to turn their lives around and move them in the right direction. The Spirit did not soothe them in their sin, nor did He shout them down while they were in it. He simply met them where they were, and He changed them in the middle of it. The laundry list of the great unwashed was the prospect roll for membership in the early church. The same should be true today. There is great hope in, “Such were some of you.” Change is in the air. Take a deep breath and speak the truth of God in love.
The condition of sin has not changed in the past 2000 years. People mentioned on that list in I Corinthians are still around. If it was wrong then, it is wrong now. If a person caught is a trap could be set free from it then, they can be set free now. What has changed is the Christian’s proper response to the condition of sin. To call something right that God calls wrong in order to appease a hostile culture is not open-minded. It is heartless. To cheer for someone riding a fast horse to hell is not the right thing to do. It is not even fair. It is just plain mean.
Remaining silent while someone is moving towards a cliff is no virtue. At times silence is not golden. In this case, it is just plain yellow. However, shouting down to a person from a moral high horse rarely convinces them to turn around. Discernment from God on a person’s sinful condition is not meant to provide a sense of superiority, but a sense of urgency. Prayer is the proper response to person in need of a turnaround in their lives. Praying for a person moving in the wrong direction keeps your heart tender, your voice soft, and your eyes focused on the Life-Changer. Prayer calls on God to do what He does best. Talk, too often, just shouts at people who are doing their worst. You might be surprised what happens when you stop doing what is right in your own eyes and take up God’s challenge to TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Dr. Gary Miller
TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Ministries
For over 40 years, Gary and Dana Miller have invested their lives in the pastoral ministry of churches in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Georgia. Gary and Dana believe the hope of the world is the local church, and the strength of the church is sustained by praying people.
They have taught extensively on the role of prayer in spiritual awakening, counseled people to build strong marriages by equipping husbands and wives to pray together and have ministered internationally in Hong Kong, Japan, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Switzerland through their TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Prayer Conferences.
Gary and Dana live in Fort Worth, Texas and have been married for 40 years. They are parents of two grown daughters, Ashley and Allyson.