When the Reverend Dr. Samuel Shoemaker passed away back in 1963, he was revered and remembered as a courageous cleric who didn’t shy away from controversy – and who didn’t hesitate to call out comfort-seeking Christians.

“The Church has, to a large extent, succumbed to the wave of materialism which judges everything by size and quantity, instead of character and quality,” he once warned.

Credited with helping inspire and set in motion Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Shoemaker was a fearless leader determined to use his influence and platforms to make a difference.

He once declared:

“Religion is not meant to save us from trouble, but to save us from defeat.”

If Shoemaker worked overtime to influence and encourage Christians to take action, antagonists and agitators of Christianity work tirelessly to intimidate believers and discourage them from saying or doing anything of substance in the public square.

Advocates who object to expressions of faith in the public square regularly refer to the mystical, non-existent wall that is said to separate church and state. This unofficial doctrine dates to a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association.

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State,” he said.

Of course, there’s a big difference between establishing a state religion and welcoming or providing people of faith a platform. But avowed secularists and advocates have run with it and ridden its wave – confusing, confounding and silencing plenty of people along the way.

Christians who do speak up and out are falsely labeled as zealots and right-wingers. The insult de jour is “Christian nationalist” – a loaded term that suggests patriotic Americans are putting the flag above the Cross. Never mind that few ever really do this – but the taunts take their toll.

The Reverend William M. Elliott, Jr., was the longtime pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas. A contemporary of Shoemaker, he cautioned against complacency.

“God does not promise to lighten our load nor to head off difficulties,” he preached. “He does not offer to remove the hazards in the game of life. What God promises is inner stamina and enabling power which will cause us to transcend our problems and keep us from being spiritual casualties.”

Since there’s little doubt biblical Christianity stands in stark contrast to cultural norms of today, should it surprise us that actively engaged believers will inevitably clash with culture?

Beware the Christian who is so eager to get along with the world that they go along with those who suppress our religious freedom. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” wrote James. “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).

How we disagree matters, but whether that disagreement brings offense shouldn’t shade our commitments and convictions.

C.S. Lewis was known to spar in the classroom with students and at pubs with fellow writers and academics. He had strong opinions. How Dr. Michael Ward, an English literary critic and theologian, described the famous writer’s style and temperament serves as a good model for believers looking to debate and advocate today.

“He could always distinguish the man from the man’s opinion,” said Ward. “He knew the difference between an argument and a quarrel. He would not allow himself to be betrayed into aggression, but would, where necessary, draw rein on a dispute with a wry smile and an agreement to disagree.”

“Man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward,” wrote Job (5:7) – a reference to the challenges confronting us all in a fallen and sinful world. The best news, though, is that troubles become manageable when we’re enduring them on the Lord’s behalf and when encountering them in pursuit of God’s calling on our lives.