Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Outrage, Conviction and Courage, in a Culture of Silence

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Silence has always been the friend of tyranny.

Outrage is always the enemy of tyranny when people have the courage to speak and be heard.

Outrage does not exist apart from conviction. If we don't hold deep convictions, why bother?

In 1998, William Bennett, former Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush, wrote a book titled, "The Death of Outrage."

At the time, he was fed up with the antics of President Clinton and his womanizing in the oval office and elsewhere and his dishonesty in the impeachment hearings that followed. He was also upset at a complicit press that failed to tell the story correctly and honestly. And he was bothered that there was no outrage over the moral conduct of the President.

It is a well written, factual book. He gave me my personal copy which I noticed on the shelf in my office the other day.

While the story of Clinton, Lewinsky and a dozen other women has aged and all but disappeared, his point in writing the book has not. It is perhaps even more relevant now then when he wrote it.

After making his case he concluded, "One temptation, the very modern temptation, is not to care, or at least pretend not to care; to suspend judgement, avert our gaze, minimize what is happening, hope the scandals will soon pass, having wrought minimal damage. But that is something we ought not allow. It is a flight from reality."

Fifteen years later those who should be speaking out on the issues of our day are pretending not to care, or worse, hiding behind the notion that to speak to the moral cultural decay of our day would be a distraction to "reaching the lost"---identifying with non-Christians. And it would burn bridges.

We too are taking flight from reality.

Outrage does not define an angry, bitter person, but one whose sensibilities and deeply held beliefs are shocked. The outrage I'm thinking of is strong indignation.

We sometimes refer to it as "righteous indignation"---what Jesus felt when He addressed the money changers in the temple.

But without conviction there is no outrage.

Our culture is being conditioned to either having no convictions because of the dominate influence of secular relativism in our culture, or to simply remain silent, pretending not care. Minding one's own business.

A biblical Christian can accept neither. How can we be salt and light and be silent, without convictions?

There is likely not a better biblical example of convictions and courage than that found in the profile of Daniel.

I mentioned him a few days ago, both in this blog and on my live radio program, but there is more.

Dr. Charles Stanley, a friend and well known pastor, has often used Daniel as an example. The following is some of his thoughts and some of my own.

A conviction is a belief that is considered true and worthy of standing upon regardless of the consequences.

Let's revisit Daniel 6:10-26.

His life is a profile of godly convictions and courage to act on those convictions even when the consequences seemed rather clear. However, as a result of his convictions and active courage, the entire kingdom of Babylon was introduced to God.

Social pressure could have easily tempted Daniel to compromise his beliefs, or at least keep his mouth shut. After all, he was a foreigner---you know, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do."

He didn't compromise and he wasn't silent. His convictions were greater than the cultural peer pressure or any social fear.

So why did he hold such strong convictions at a young age, far from home?

Here's four reasons.

1. He was home schooled--taught by his parents. His education was based on his understanding of the Mosaic Law and his obedience to it.

2. He knew the Scriptures. He was grounded in the Word of God.

3. He had a personal relationship with God. He had not left home with merely a consensual understanding of what his parents believed. Their faith was his faith. He owned it.

4. He had the courage to act on his faith, because it was his faith, not that of his parents or family or linage.

The result?

1. When challenged, he remained strong even though the culture and peer pressure indicated there could and would be negative consequences.

2. He influenced other people. His friends Sharrack, Meshack and Abendnego followed his example of not eating the king's food nor bowing down to the king or anyone other than God Himself. We all know there were consequences for them, and we know it was a good outcome. Not even the smell of smoke or fire on their body.

3. While Daniel's obedience put him in a tough position---the lion's den, God protected him and ultimately gave him favor through out the kingdom, with King Darius proclaiming that God, Daniel's God, was the true and living God.

That's "reaching the lost." Or "building a bridge." Or "identifying with the culture." The people got the message.

It is a flight from reality to believe that sharing the whole gospel will somehow cause an individual or a church to be unable to reach people.

Conviction is born out of truth. The truth sets people free.

So why do we compromise? Why are we silent?

Most often compromise or silence regarding the truth is related to one of these 4 fears:

1. Fear of personal criticism.

2. Fear of rejection.

3. Fear of failure.

4. Fear of loss.

A.B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church once said, "The chief danger of the church today is that it is trying to get on the same side as the world, instead of turning the world upside down. Our Master expects us to accomplish results, even though we bring opposition and conflict. Anything is better than compromise, apathy and paralysis."

The theologian A.W. Tozer said, "We are not diplomats, but prophets, our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum."

He also said, "To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with man."

I am not suggesting we seek conflict as some do, but am strongly advocating that we stand with conviction and courage for biblical truth and values.

Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes..." Romans 1:16

Be Bold. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.