The Choice That Faces Every Believer in America
By Laurel Cornell Robinson
Picture three young American men, who have moved up through the ranks in this government against certain odds. They are good at what they do, and they are respected.
One day, they and all the members of Congress, lobbyists, and members of the press in the capital are summoned to a great conference on the Mall, facing the Washington Monument. There is also a small stage with an assortment of musicians. When all have assembled, the White House press secretary announces that when the musicians begin playing, every single person must literally fall down and worship this image.
If any man does not comply, he will be promptly bound and thrown into the Potomac River, never to emerge alive.
While each of these three men is still contemplating this idea, and whether or not the bowing down would violate his commitment to honor God only, the instruments start up. In the blink of an eye, hundreds of men and women around them hit the dusty D.C. grass. Suddenly, the three are feeling very vulnerable—caught with their political pants up, if you will, when everyone else’s are being cast aside. The sycophants at their feet give them accusing looks out of the corners of their eyes. The ever-present cameras pan to these last men standing. The music dies down uncomfortably.
Of course, we are imagining together a modern-day setting for the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. I’ve been imagining it a lot lately, and here’s why.
This is happening to loving, thinking Christians in America. The giant golden idol has been raised. (In fact, perhaps it has been there all along, and it’s only now becoming obvious.) We have been told, “You shall not make any truth claims that are based on the Bible alone. You must bow down to show your respect for the dignity of anyone who practices a sexually deviant lifestyle. In fact, you must aver that it is not actually a choice, but a fundamental quality of their humanness that should be honored.” The music began, the parades were held, and somehow we who thought we were mainstream became the outsiders.
That morning when they got up, these three men probably didn’t know they were going to “take a stand.” They were just, well, standing there, doing what they always did: trying to be faithful to God, whom they knew to be forever faithful to His people. These men didn’t call the press conference; they did not blow a trumpet to attract attention to themselves. The sands of popular opinion shifted quite suddenly, and by default they found themselves sticking out like a sore thumb.
I don’t mean to paint them as hapless, accidental heroes. They made a brave choice and I’m sure they’d do it again. It’s just that they didn’t plan it.
Many among us have wound up bowing down. Some have done so because they are convinced it’s “mean” to stand there while everyone else is horizontal. But are they really being loving, or self-protecting?
Some of our comrades have become reactionary, spewing out statements that aren’t exactly in line with the Word of God. They didn’t plan to end up there, but when they see that they have been painted “black” in the black-and-white depiction put forth by the spin doctors, they get self-righteous and angry. And some other comrades are slowly side-stepping away from these hotheads, not wanting to get taken down by the net that will surely be tossed over them soon. In fact, not wanting to be grouped with the crazies, many are ducking closer to the ground. They don’t want to be tossed into the blazing furnace of being politically ostracized, or having all their own sins aired and held against them, branded with a “B” for bigot.
To those who still stand, who are constantly trying to stay on your feet by balancing truth and love and grace, I stand with you.
It’s not easy, “just” standing here. We say to the sinners,
“I love you; I am a sinner too; I just cannot condone your sin.”
And they will say,
“Nope, you clearly hate us and wish us dead and will be out to get us as long as there is breath in your lungs.”
“But God loves you!”
And they will say,
“Yes, He loves us just the way we are; it’s just you who has a problem!”
“Look, I won’t get into your personal business, but my conscience just won’t allow me to bow down.”
And it still won’t be good enough for them. They are on the offensive, and they won’t be satisfied until you either bow or drown.
But our goal in life is not to be liked. It’s to love God and His Word, and love people— enough to tell them the truth, that they may be set free.
In Revelation, Jesus makes it clear what He likes and dislikes when it comes to cultural choices. Addressing local bodies of believers, He finds certain deeds worth mentioning against them:
- “You have forsaken your first love (2:4).
- “You have people who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by . . . committing sexual immorality (2:14).
- “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality…. I have given her time to reprint of her immorality but she is unwilling (2:20-21).
- “You have a reputation of being alive, but are dead (3:1).
- “You are neither cold nor hot. . . . You say ‘I am rich. . . . I do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (3:15, 17).”
He commends His churches for persevering, doing good deeds, testing false prophets, enduring hardships, poverty, and slander, and not renouncing their faith even when a comrade was martyred in front of them.
The bottom line is this: Don’t get comfortable here. Don’t sit back in the easy chair of being liked by your fellow humans, or else you might find that you can’t get up out of that chair. If the life of Jesus is any indicator, loving others often looks less like singing “Kumbaya” around a campfire together and more like one person reaching out to a group of spoiled children who are pouting because he didn’t dance to their song.
Please, believer, don’t read my words as a call to be nasty in battle. Hold on to your first love. Read the Word every day. It has a special way of keeping us humble even while reminding us how to stand firm . . . in love.