Thomas Paine was just thirty-eight years-old when he arrived in the American colonies, and within a year he would go on to write a forty-seven-page pamphlet championing and cheering on the American Revolution.
“Common Sense” is often claimed to be the bestselling title in American publishing history, though a lack of records makes such a distinction impossible to verify. Nevertheless, the fact remains the effort galvanized, inspired, and emboldened the colonists. We all remember the booklet’s most memorable and oft-quoted passage:
These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
I thought of these lines earlier today when considering the bullying and badgering social conservatives are enduring of late. These are trying times, especially for those who hold to traditional and biblical ethics. Even people outside the Christian bubble are facing intense pressure.
Whether it’s Matt Walsh and Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire being threatened, hacked, or doxed, a 5th grade teacher on Dr. Phil yesterday defending the exclusivity of male and female, or the Christian who is worried about posting a pro-life or pro-biblical marriage message in social media – it’s becoming more of a challenge and more of a threat to even communicate reality.
Ray is a 5th grade teacher and on a Dr. Phil episode discussing transgender ideology, he pointed out that men cannot be women and women cannot be men. Speaking of so-called “trans men” he stated:
“They’re not men… they’re women dressed as men.”
He later stated:
“The people who hate the truth” object to it “because they see the truth as hateful,” he said. “If you want to identify in any way you can, you’re free to do so. But that does not mean that the rest of us have to join that illusion.”
This all brings to mind the C.S. Lewis observation of long ago.
“When the whole world is running toward a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”
It’s the thoughtful Christian who wisely and appropriately engages difficult topics, and in a loving but truthful manner. It’s more art than science, and we need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to motive. Are we looking to persuade and win an argument for egotistical reasons – or are we being led by the Holy Spirit and allowing ourselves to be used to bring honor and glory to the Lord? We may try and convince someone of the rightness of a biblical truth – but only the Holy Spirit can convict them of it.
It can be intimidating to run up against the prevailing wisdom of the world. Maintaining a biblical position on certain issues today threatens livelihoods – and even life itself in some extreme cases.
Yet, as Christians we’re reminded over and over again in the Scriptures:
Be not afraid.
Pastor John Piper has suggested that Christian boldness is a tri-fold mixture of Spirit-empowered conviction, courage, and urgency. All three of these ingredients are necessary if we’re to engage our culture with a biblically inspired zeal.
Some Christians shy away from conversation or cultural engagement out of a desire to be nice, thinking holy boldness is a turnoff and poor witness. The opposite is often true. We cannot be held hostage by this false belief. Honesty is the most loving response to destructive behavior and beliefs.
The closer we remain to Christ, the easier and more natural it will be to be courageous and live counterculturally. It should also encourage us that despite appearances to the contrary, we’re not alone. Millions of people believe the words and teachings of Jesus.
Pope John Paul II began his pontificate on October 22, 1978 by echoing Jesus’ words to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square:
Be not afraid!
Do not be afraid to champion and defend innocent life.
Do not be afraid to support the biblical definition of marriage and the exclusivity of male and female.
Do not be afraid to live your life in the workplace consistent with your deeply held religious and spiritual convictions.
Do not be afraid to welcome children, and perhaps lots of them, into the world.
Do not be afraid to parent according to God’s standards.
Do not be afraid to stand up for your rights as parents. And if you feel led, do not be afraid to homeschool your children.
Fear is a tool of those who oppose truth. Live and love boldly – and the Lord will remain by your side.
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