Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Would You Stand for Christ?

I love my family. We all get along great (most of the time), and enjoy being together (as you can see in the picture to the right. That's my older brother and his son mugging for the camera with me...yes, we're a family of goofballs). They're a part of me, and I love that. I love talking and playing and being with them. I'd hate life without them.

Which brings me to some interesting conversations I've had lately. Conversations that have challenged my mind and heart. But let me start at the beginning. Or, as Inigo Montoya says in The Princess Bride (arguably one of the best movies of all time), "No, there is too much. Let me sum up!"

In my day job as an acquisitions editor, I've been working with a new author (well, new to me), James David Jordan. His work-in-progress, tentatively titled Forsaken, has his protagonist facing an issue that Christians seem to enjoy discussing: Would you ever deny Christ?

Of course, American Christians seldom have to deal with this issue in real life. But...what if?

  • What if you were told you'd lose your job unless you denied Christ as the savior of the world?
  • What if someone kidnapped your child, threatening to kill that child unless you made a public denial of Christ as the Son of God?
  • What if someone broke into your home, put a gun to your family's heads, and said unless you deny Christ, they're all dead. Not you, just them.

I've asked a number of people, and I confess I was stunned at the response. The majority said they'd deny Christ.

"He'd know I didn't mean it, so what would it matter?"
"Everyone who heard me say it would know it was just to save my family. God would understand that!"
"There's no way I'd let my child die. I don't care what it cost me."

Okay. I believe not having children hinders me in truly comprehending what this would do to a parent, to choose Christ over a child. But still, I can't help wonder...

  • The Christians in the coliseums had this same out. The whole, "They'll know I don't mean it" thing. There has to be a reason they chose to die rather than deny.
  • Other ancient martyrs certainly had this same out. So why didn't they take it?
  • Believers in other parts of the world have this same out, and yet they stand for the truth of who Christ is. Above all.

Think it's not happening today? Just do a search on the web for modern-day martyrs, and you'll find story after story of Christians in Turkey, the Sudan, North Korea, Iraq, and multitudes of other places being tortured, crippled, and murdered for failing to deny Christ. And yet, so many American Christians seem to think it's excusable in extreme circumstances because they "wouldn't mean it."

Words have power. Saying you don't mean something, doesn't change the fact that you've said it. Doesn't negate the impact of letting words pass your heart and lips. You know what that's like. How often have someone's words hurt you? An apology can help, but no apology can erase the fact that hateful or hurtful words are spoken. Being careless with words isn't only foolish, it's dangerous.

Consider Matthew 10, starting in chapter 28:

28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

Whoa. Tough words. Tough truths. And yes, I know you can't text-proof Scripture, taking things out of context. But still, was the situation when Christ spoke these words any different than it would be now? Regardless of the stakes, you're being given a choice. So what would you do?

I understand those who choose to save their families. I do. My family is precious to me, and the thought of watching someone kill any of them because I refused to deny Christ...makes my stomach hurt. But my family is firm in their faith in God. No matter what happens here, I know we'll be together eternity.

Could I live with them dying because of something I wouldn't do. I don't know. I have a hard time getting my mind around such a thought. But I know this: I can't live without God. And to deny Him...that would tear me apart. Because no matter what the circumstances, I keep coming back to this:

Denying Christ is not a small thing.

To think you can do it, that you can excuse it with "But I didn't mean it" seems careless. Cavalier. And utterly unbiblical. Of course, I pray none of us ever has to face this kind of situation. But after these recent conversations, I'm convinced American believers need to be talking about it more. Reasoning together about what it means--really means--to stand for Christ.

No matter what.



Deena said...

Great post! That sounds like a book I want to read.

My husband and I have had this discussion with our kids, and with our church family. While it would be excrutiating, we know we'd see each other on the other side, and that it is eternity that will matter most in the end.

I pray for God's grace should that time ever come, and trust Him that He will provide it in my moment of need.

Ane Mulligan said...

I pray I never come to that crossroad, but I fear God more than I fear death, mine or my family's. And my family would be safe in God's arms if if came to that.

Anonymous said...

Powerful, thought-provoking blog. Also very timely for me, because I've been thinking much about this very topic.

I denied Christ once, a few years back. It was for purely selfish reasons - I wanted something that seemed impossible. So I went for it. I got what I wanted, even though it was totally against God's Will.

Now each day, I realize what I did and I live with that guilt. I've confessed it and asked forgiveness - and I know He forgives me. I just haven't yet forgiven myself.

Thinking of denying Christ for the safety of my children - that's a tough one. I pray that I'll have the courage to make the right choice if I ever face it again. Knowing that I denied Him for myself makes my decision even harder.

Thank you for making me think.

Rel said...

Fabulous and challenging words, Karen. I have given this some thought ever since I had children. Ted Dekker's portrayal of this issue in When Heaven Weeps is extremely powerful. The book sounds great ~ keep acquiring good stuff ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well! The Lord God is as pleased with your thoughts as you were--good and faithful servant. Oh, it hurts truly loving God, no matter what. But, if we say "Yes"--He makes it good--no matter what, again! Thanks for the reminder and the cutie patootie peekaboo pic! :) loveyou--patti

Doug said...

Must be time for a hug. Thanks for the giggle and good luck with the new site.

Nicole said...

We wonder, don't we? I cannot say with a clear heart that denying Christ at any point is acceptable via the excuse given. Scripture doesn't support it. Martyrdom is mostly unimaginable for us in this country and the ultimate expression of real love for Jesus. Put to the horrible test . . . we wonder, don't we? And hope we would not deny our beloved Lord. And pray we never have to find out.

Lori Benton said...

A sobering thought. We can determine now how we plan to respond should such a thing ever occur, dialog with our Father about it, and trust Him to give us the courage and grace when we do need to stand, publicly, for Him. Even when the stakes are not life and death.

And your new website ROCKS, btw. *s*

Karen B. said...

Thanks, all. I so appreciate your thoughts on this.

And to Anonymous, please know I'm praying for you. My heart hurts that you've gone through such an experience. You're right: God has forgiven you. But I understand how hard it is to forgive ourselves. We just have to recognize that the sin no longer exists: it's covered in His blood and we can walk in freedom. A more humbled, experienced freedom. But freedom nonetheless.

May He wrap you in His arms and grant you peace. And may He give each of us the strength we need each day to stand for Him.

Grateful for each of you.

Karen B