Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Christian Art Of Pushing Back

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

President Obama angered millions of Americans last week when he threatened to withhold federal funds from schools that did not submit to his decree regarding bathrooms and gender confusion.

Some governors and state legislatures are pushing back---but the "millions of people" are now wondering, "What can I personally do to make a difference?"

How can I, too, push back on this and other immoral doctrines of this administration?

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told students and graduates at Hillsdale College Saturday how to make a difference in the culture.

Some thoughts on the Christian art of pushing back---and becoming "a stone in the shoe."

Justice Thomas, speaking at the Hillsdale College commencement last Saturday told students, graduates and their families that it all begins with paying attention every day to what's happening in your world.

Being informed.

He spoke of the "hallmarks of his youth," saying, "When we heard words like 'duty', 'honor', country', no more needed to be said."

"Now," he told the audience, "those hallmarks of my youth---patriotism and religion, seem more like outliers, if not afterthoughts."

He said, "At the risk of understating what is necessary to preserve liberty and our form of government, I think more and more that it depends on good citizens discharging their daily duties and their daily obligations."

Thomas said, "Today we rarely hear of our personal responsibilities in discussions of broad notions such as freedom and liberty."

Yet, he said, "there could be no freedom without each of us discharging our responsibilities."

He told the graduates, "Do not hide your faith and your beliefs under a bushel basket, especially in this world that seems to have gone mad with political correctness."

I reflected on Justice Thomas' speech as I read an article yesterday about pushing back on a president in the battle over bathrooms.

The anger felt by Americans comes from what Thomas Jefferson called "self-evident truth," Christian apologist Alex McFarland says.

He says, "Other of our Founding Fathers called it natural law. The Bible says it's written on the heart of all people."

That explains the near-universal disgust and push back by the American public in regard to unjust and immoral actions this president is taking---undermining marriage by fiat, claiming to have redefined it, imposing new sexual mores in the name of "creating a more perfect union" and threatening those who do not embrace his insanity with financial and legal penalties.

But how can we the people "push back?"

Obviously by voting. And by participating in activities and campaigns to overturn such actions where possible.

Christians must be active socially and politically.

But a comment McFarland made drew my attention back to Justice Thomas' speech.

He said, "Much like Clarence Thomas encouraging Hillsdale graduates to be aware and active citizens, people must be wiling to contact their elected officials and attend school board meetings."

By inserting ourselves as Christians into the functions of our culture, McFarland said we become "a stone in the shoe of a leader that is clueless or is doing things that are unjust or immoral."

We become the stone in the shoe?

I've used that term in pastoral sermons, but I always saw the stone in the shoe as something bad that God used to get the attention of believers and bring about positive change---like dealing with bitterness and unforgiveness, etc.

I had never really thought about it in that way---or frankly wanted to be "the stone."

The "stone in the shoe" is an old Sicilian Mafia phrase. We sometimes use the phrase, as a recall doing, to illustrate how the Lord uses personal difficulties---Paul called it "a thorn" to bring about His will and purpose in our lives.

Interestingly, the phrase "a stone in my shoe" was popularized in America by mobster Carlos Marcello in referring to Attorney General Robert Kennedy when he focused on breaking up the Mafia and organized crime in 1960s America.

How then do we, as McFarland suggests, become a "stone in the shoe" of the secular progressives who seek to rewrite morality and biblical values?

Merely becoming an agitation is not a great way to change the world.

Clearly we can and must become politically active in any and every way available to us.

We are to be "in" the world, but not "of" the world.

Justice Thomas said one way we become the proverbial stone in the shoe is to let our light shine---don't hide it under a bushel---"especially in this world that seems to have gone mad with political correctness."

As Thomas also suggests, we must become productive citizens in our communities. Do good deeds.

We are to be "in" the culture, but not "of" the culture.

This is why James, in the New Testament, emphasizes "works" as a measurable result of our faith---not a means to faith in Christ, yet he writes that our works affirm our faith in Christ.

Faith without works is dead faith, James wrote.

In times like these, sometimes our best efforts seem to not be quite enough.

There is a profound account in Exodus 14:13,14 which explains the ultimate thing we can do to change our world.

Moses said to God's people: "Do not fear! Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord that He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today, you will never, never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you can be still."

This is not an isolated statement, nor is it only about Egypt.

II Chronicles 20:17-"You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you."

Take your positions. Stand firm. And see what God does.

In the story of Daniel, his firm stance---not merely his resistance, became a stone in the shoe of his enemies, leading him to the den of lions, but ultimately to hearing King Darius proclaim to all the people: "I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, and steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end."

Jesus Himself was called the stumbling stone (Matt:21: 43-44).

He indeed became a stone in the shoe of the world. He was misunderstood, mocked, hated and ultimately sentenced to death.

Old Testament prophets predicted (Is. 8:14), "He will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall."

Daniel predicted He would be a Rock "cut out not by human hands which smashes into the nations of the world."

And New Testament writers recognized Him as the "stone that the builders rejected, but saw the fulfillment of Isaiah's words come to pass---they saw a "stone laid in Zion, a tested stone a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation."

A "Stone" that would change the world forever.

Be Faithful.