What Christians can take from Penn State
It’s the one word that seems to permeate the Penn State football scandal.
And it is the chief culprit in why we as Christians don’t stand our ground in today’s world.
I was recently debating politics with a friend when he made the statement that the Supreme Court of our country “…stops you from witnessing the name of Christ to anyone you want to.” That statement, used in this case to outline what he though the issues with the country, and more specifically the health care bill, were really struck me. In fact, in enraged me a little.
What is REALLY stopping us from sharing our faith the way we should?
Is it the courts? Our parents? Our bosses at work?
No, the real culprit is our culture and the expectations that we allow it to put on us.
Yes, I said ALLOW. We let it happen. In fact to some degree, we encourage it.
The leadership at Penn State decided more than a decade ago that they would rather cover up the infamy that was occurring on their campus rather than suffer a few years of scrutiny and probably damage to their football program. They chose to be accountable to themselves instead of God or even the morals of the day, just so their vaunted head coach and a fan base could forgo the shame of one man’s heinous crimes.
They didn’t stand up for what was right.
As Christians, we do the same thing every day.
We buy into the concept that we must have the latest and greatest gadget, drive the best car and wear the best clothes. But more so, we are afraid of what people will think if we state our mind and beliefs in a clear manner if it flies in the face of what our culture accepts as good and right. And it is there that we fail and ultimately sin.
“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt 7:14, NIV)
Matthew’s writing seems to indicate pretty clearly that there will be fewer people finding the true way to Christ than those that do not. And in that, I think it is safe to project out that in the United States, as with the rest of the world, Christians will be in the minority over all. So the world taking an anti-God stance shouldn’t be any big surprise. We are told to live in the world, but not be of it (John 15:19 paraphrase). And 1 Corinthians 7:31 confirms it, telling us to “…use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.”
So when and where do we stand up and really, really trust God? It’s tough, and as with most things involving our Heavenly Father, He’ll likely have to break us all the way down before we’ll get the clue and start doing it right.
I’ve been broken like that once, a story best saved for another day. But trust me, it ain’t fun. Through it all I learned to stand up for God regardless of the culture around me. I’m more comfortable now proclaiming what God has done in my life and can do for others. I’m not perfect, but I’m a lot better at it for having gone through the trials God placed before me.
I once had some missionary friends tell me of the Afghanistan people they were working with. When one of them would turn from Islam to faith in Christ, they became a target for Taliban soldiers. From time to time these soldiers would approach a new believer, put a gun to his chest and cock the trigger. “Are you a Christian?” they’d ask? The new believer would have to answer, either disavowing God or his country. There was no in between.
My missionary friends said the soldiers they saw had always loaded an empty chamber. They heard that others had not.
What would be that gun in your chest today? And how would you answer?
Would it be your job? Your friends? Your spouse?
I once heard of a government official that was given authority to hunt down any and all people who opposed the nation’s leaders. He was so adamant about doing his job effectively that he actually went to the top brass and asked for the authority to kill anyone who he caught in opposition to the government and its policies. They granted it to him immediately and he left to carry out his extermination of the dissidents.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Damascus. Paul was approached by God, who subsequently changed his ways and made Paul one His greatest witnesses.
But here is the application for today. See, Paul KNEW what the leaders of the church would do to him if he spoke out about Christ. He was there when Stephen was martyred (Acts 7:58) and he himself had killed Christians for doing what he was now considering to take up as a vocation.
But Paul did it anyway.
And if he is our example, then why shouldn’t we stand up and be counted when are asked even the simplest of questions, “Do you believe in Jesus?”
God has asked us to stand up and preach the Gospel in love and truth. Nothing more, nothing less. We haven’t been called to tear down governments, take cities by military force or burn abortion clinics to the ground. We haven’t been called to condemn the world or those that choose a path different from what know to be the truth.
What we have been called to do is love those that are lost like a brother. To try and present them with with truth so that God can help them make the same choice that we have. We have been called to love one another unconditionally and to spread His Gospel around the globe, in our country and throughout our city.
So the next time someone puts you in a spot to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ or sit back and stay silent, what will your choice be?