It has been said that “a faith that costs little will accomplish little.” Considering the trends that are rapidly taking hold in our American culture, we might well find out how much our faith is worth to us individually in the amazingly near future.
Much has been made in recent days of privately-owned Christian businesses which are being targeted by everything from boycotts to lawsuits to legislation for various positions the ownership has taken. Chick-Fil-A was in the midst of a firestorm last year for comments made by one of the primary owners and officers of this 100% private company regarding the issue of the definition of marriage. Shortly thereafter, competing “boycotts” and “buy-cotts” and even a totally failed attempt at a gay “kiss-in” were the topic of the month all over the news and internet. Private evangelical university, Lynchburg, VA’s Liberty University (full disclosure: I am an employee of Liberty University) and craft and home accessory retail chain, “Hobby Lobby” have challenged different aspects of the so-called “Affordable Care Act” (aka “Obamacare”) which would require them to potentially provide abortion coverage in their health plans. A similar lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the Sisters of Charity — a Catholic association of nuns — which objects to the requirement to provide birth control which violates their Catholic tenants. In Arizona, Colorado and Washington State, multiple small business owners in the wedding industry have been sued and even run out of business because they want to deny services to homosexual “marriage” ceremonies. Thus far, the courts have been ruling against them with regularity. The Obama administration has unconstitutionally stopped defending the Family Protection Act which helped insure discrimination against those who do not want to be forced to violate their religious convictions.
The battles to stop government recognition of homosexual marriages has been lost. The momentum is too strong. The media and activists successfully categorized it as an “anti-gay” thing when the debate was really never anti-gay marriage, it was about having the government give legal recognition to a form of marriage unrecognized as legitimate for over 4,000 years of civilization. There have always been homosexuals and homosexual couples — that wasn’t the issue. It was about what it meant to define family. Those who stand for historical and Biblical morality lost.
Today, even some evangelicals have called into question whether or not a private business owner should have freedom to discriminate based on religious convictions. They are so interested in presenting a social reasonable definition of the Gospel that they are missing a bigger point. If private businesses are to have any freedoms at all apart from the dictates of the state, then the state needs to stay out of them. A private business owner who does not want to serve Christians or gays or Muslims because of their religious faith — even if it means they will ultimately not have sufficient income to survive as a business — should be allowed to do so without government prosecution. Should a Muslim-owned business be required to sell pornography because it is a “first amendment” issue to have freedom of the press? Should a Christian wedding photographer have to go to a gay strip club to record a homosexual wedding ceremony even if it violates their conscience to enter such an establishment? Should a gay florist be required to hire a fundamentalist Christian to arrange bouquets even though it might drive away potential customers? Where does the intrusion end? With clients and customers? What about with insurance and benefits? What about hiring and promotion? If religious organizations and private businesses aren’t free to live out their values, shouldn’t a private Christian school have to hire a lesbian PE Teacher? Shouldn’t a church be required to retain a pregnant youth worker? Would an atheist organization need to have a quote of evangelicals to demonstrate non-descrimination? These are the very issues at stake right now — both constitutional issues and moral/faith issues and they don’t just affect Christians such as me and many of you who read this blog.
But on to the bigger question…
When the day comes — and the day WILL come as it has come to other generations in other nations before us — will we be willing to take a stand that would require us to pay a price? Frankly, that might be just what the Lord has in mind for our future and it might not be an altogether bad thing. Granted, I’m not looking to be some sort of martyr or activist. My firebrand days are pretty much over. However, it is a worthy topic for conversation and thought. Would we, in fact, be willing to suffer loss, discrimination, opposition or worse for the values that come with our faith in Scripture and God.
Dead leaves and dead fish go with the flow. Taking a stand causes ripples and waves. Turn on a light and watch the cockroaches run for the shadows. Put some salt on ice and watch things start changing. Taking a stand on matters of propriety, morality, philosophy, ethics, values and conduct is going to exact some sort of price at the hands of those whose values are different than yours.
We should expect nothing less.
Years ago, my oldest son (now 26, but around 10-11 at the time) was on a city baseball league that made it to the playoffs. He was a pitcher and was scheduled to pitch one of the playoff games. The problem was that the game was scheduled for 10:00 on Sunday morning. At 10:00 on Sunday mornings, our family is in church. No exceptions. Everyone on the team knew that we didn’t miss Wednesday nights or Sunday services for baseball. Thus, he got there late and was a relief pitcher instead. Now a decade and a half later, I have no recollection whether or not we won the game, but we do still talk about taking a stand for our priorities as a family. We had told the coach that the first day of practice. Sometimes we’d come to a game right after church as it was a few innings old and sometimes we left a game a few innings early to get to church, but it was church first, baseball second. We didn’t ask for special consideration, we didn’t start a petition drive to change the game times, we didn’t gripe when it meant that he didn’t get to play as much. It was just the price of having priorities that were important to our family.
(I often wonder if all the professing Christians in the country had a priority scale that placed spiritual matters before athletic events, if sports leagues would not be forced to take that into consideration when scheduling games. I’m old enough to remember when they didn’t give homework on Wednesday nights so as not to interfere with Wednesday night church services and this was in PUBLIC SCHOOLS.)
Part of bearing the “shame” of the cross is to pay the price with patience that doing right costs us.
For years, I’ve watched Orthodox Jews refuse certain foods and walk rather than drive to places on the Sabbath without complaint because of their beliefs. I’ve seen Muslims stop and drop on their prayer rugs in the middle of airports during their pre-appointed prayer times. I recall Jehovah Witnesses not participating in Christmas parties at public schools and Seventh Day Adventists not being able to play ball games on Saturday because of their religion.
So my question for evangelical believers today is “When was the last time you paid a price for taking a stand?” So many of us seem bent on “blending in” so as not to “turn people off” and as a result — we’ve watered down the change that the Gospel should be having in our lives. Today, dropping swear words and consuming adult beverages with the boys is considered an act of cultural evangelism as we emphasize relevance over holiness. Our priorities are such that we adjust our lives around schedules that are filled with vacations, entertainment, recreation, work, athletics, etc… and if it is convenient, we’ll even slip a worship service or a ministry task in there from time to time….but as long as it doesn’t “cost” us too much. We’ll sit silently while someone defames our Savior’s name with staccato emphasis and yet, some Muslims are quite willing to behead you for drawing a cartoon of Muhammad. (I’m not suggesting we use violence, but do you think it is wholly inappropriate to request someone to stop staying “Jesus Christ!” as a curse in our presence and then kindly explaining why that name is special to you? Does the name of “Muhammad” have greater value than “Jesus”?)
If we are to be salt and light in the world, then it might just mean we get turned down for a job (I experienced this a few years ago — passed over for a job at a charter school in favor of someone significantly less qualified because my resume was “too religious” — something that is potentially illegal, but let’s face it….it happens.) We might have to turn off our cable in order to tithe or give to missions. We might not be invited out with the important business associates because we’re not going to play drinking games or hit the local strip club and that may effect our job evaluation. We might pull our kids out of an assembly or request an exemption from a certain course lecture or even not allow them to attend a certain party or school activity (ie…an amusement park’s “Night of Horrors” — something we faced in a Christian school in Miami that my children attended) and get labeled as “one of those” parents.
Right things are seldom easy and easy things are seldom right.
Just some things to ponder as we navigate this interesting culture in which we have called to be ambassadors and in which we are called to be ‘aliens’.