A sure sign of whether a Christian is truly converted is if his faith affects his allegiances. He is willing even to carry the stigma of public disgrace in order to faithfully follow the teachings of Jesus.
It is a grievous thing to see how the church nowadays has cozied up to the world. Go along to get along. Affirm the status quo. Do as we say – or else! Dare you question the American way of life?
Secular culture – and sometimes even church culture – can be edgy toward people who take the lordship of Christ seriously. The earliest Christians were an irritant to society. They marched to a different drumbeat, listened to a different voice, bowed to a different authority.
All that has changed today. Mumble high-sounding platitudes about Christianity and no one takes offense. Insist that we must obey the Word of God uncompromisingly and – “Who do you think you are?”
Christian faith, on its deepest level, is inevitably a principle of freedom – the freedom to follow one’s conscience, and at least implicitly to defend one’s own freedom from the merely external and human dictates of society and the tyranny of dictatorships. National collectivity demands conformity, as if the church were ultimately subject to the state. But the laws of the church and the way she exercises her teaching authority and jurisdiction are subordinate only to the Holy Spirit and Scripture.
Just as in the Old Testament the fidelity of Israel to the covenant meant refusing to be enslaved by the idols of the nations surrounding it, so the church is to rise above the domination by the forces of passion and delusion that are at operation in the world. The Anabaptists perhaps came closest to this ideal by acting on this principle and by refusing to look to those outside the church. Why should the church, they argued, succumb to the same infidelity by which Israel forfeited its freedom and its espousal to Yahweh in liberty?
When society justifies the wrong road, and makes it seem the only road, the right-thinking Christian can say “No!” and even help others to see that the world can justify anything, even its own destruction.
It is this understanding of lordship I must slowly learn. My first inclination has been, and in many ways still is, to give into peer pressure. But Jesus is clear about this matter of loyalty. You cannot serve God and Mammon, you cannot be for Him and against Him, you cannot follow Him just a little bit.
If I am disgusted with the compromise I see in the church today, it is because I myself have been a compromiser so often. Once in a while I see in a Barth or a Bonhoeffer the strength I desire to see in myself.
Only in retrospect do I realize that something important has happened in my life. My heart is no longer so divided. My soul is full of love for God. And I no longer care what happens to me.
I am, as I said, immersed in the Anabaptists – those good and great personalities of the sixteenth century. I feel very close to them. I feel that these “radical” reformers help me immensely in my search for myself and my God. They do more than remind me that obedience to God means suffering and disgrace. They give me a new sense of destiny and hope.
I now see the full-blown puerility of Americanism for what it is: nothing but a big absurd lie which, by its own vanity, ends in a cataclysm of bondage and destruction. “Do as we say – or else! Dare you question the American way of life?”
Against this empty and debased rhetoric, even the smallest and slightest of sincere dissent is not only tolerable but to be admired.
April 29, 2008
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.