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:
35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
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.