I’ve had this post sitting in draft for a couple of months; I’m usually wary about wading into the tribal wasteland of politics, and as such it never seemed quite the right time to publish it. Nevertheless, after my post last week regarding the dissolution of marriage, this seemed the right time.
Recently, I was considering John the Baptist, a man who was willing to put his neck on the block – literally:
For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”Mark 6 v 17-18
This man, the greatest born of women, imprisoned and eventually executed for the temerity of challenging what the leader of the time was doing in his private life.
Now, let us bring this to the current day. Can you imagine any Church authority being willing to make a similar pronouncement to the current leader of the United Kingdom? Willing to stand up, against both the enmity of the secular leadership and the opprobrium of the nation, to speak Gods truth? To follow Jesus Christ in his teaching?
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”Matthew 19 v 4-9
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Who would actually be brave enough to do this, to stand up and risk all social standing, to be ostracised and condemned? To speak a truth and bring into the light a behaviour that diminishes us all?
However, this is not just a matter of leadership. Are we not all to be salt and light? For, if not:
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.Matthew 5 v13
These are hard words. But they need to be, and we need to hear them – again and again. For friendship with the world is enmity with God. And failing to speak the truth, to go along with the status quo – however easy that may be – is friendship with the world.
In a culture that is increasingly unmoored from the Rock that used to underpin it, we all have this choice – and it will become increasingly stark.
Do we go along with the world, keep silent, acquiesce, for fear of being judged, ridiculed, persecuted? Or do we find the courage to be prophets to our culture, to stand up, and speak the truth of God into the soul of our nation? At whatever cost? Indeed, it may well prove to be a Jeremiah mission. But perhaps that is what the Church will need to be in the coming season.
We were never promised an easy ride. Indeed it is entirely the opposite.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.Matthew 10 v 16-28
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
So let’s not pretend otherwise. To live in this world, to be salt and light where we live, will become an increasingly hard task, and will require a choice about who we are going to serve.
We will perhaps come to know, in a deeper and more real way the truth of these words:
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turnMatthew 10 v 32-37
‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
To be the salt of the earth is to be despised by men, and loved by God. That is the choice that lies before us, and silence and acquiescence will not prove a sufficient shield. We will all have to make this choice. Choose wisely.