Saturday, May 4, 2019
Threat Cannot Make the Church Relent. . .
The state cannot make us surrender ourselves over the threat of taxes. This is what we grant to them by our own choice to give up the faith to preserve our status quo. The state cannot make us do anything but it can make it difficult for us to be faithful in our identity and practice of the faith. And if it is difficult, so be it. Jesus did not promise us a rose garden but warned us against those who would threaten us, who would persecute us, and who would say all sorts of things against us falsely on His account. It would seem to me that this is less threat than test. Are we up to it? That is the question every age and generation faces -- whether the test is poverty or prosperity. In either case, it brings with it the temptation to preserve ourselves by surrendering what it is that we believe, confess and teach.
In the same way, no government can compel a pastor to break the seal of the confessional. They can threaten and imprison, fine and trouble the pastor for holding to the seal of the confessional but they cannot compel him to break the seal. He acts on his own if he breaks the seal and surrenders faithfulness at the altar of expedience. That is our Achilles Heel. Not the power of the government to tell us what we must do or else but our own fear and our surrender of ourselves to the power of that fear. If the state ends up against us and makes it nearly impossible for us to do what we have been called to do, that does not allow us the right or privilege to surrender ourselves to the will of the state. So, unlike many, I do not worry about California or any other state compelling a pastor to break the seal of the confessional for any cause. What I do worry about is my own resolve and the resolve of those like me to maintain our faithfulness even under threat. After all, there are so many pastors who daily face threats far more real and profound than I might possibly face. Who would I be to surrender to the power of fear rather than to endure the trials and tribulations of faithfulness when they have maintained faithfulness under far worse conditions?
A few years ago I watched the terrible spectacle of the Christians beheaded by agents of ISIS. I am sure you saw them as well. They made a great impact upon me. These were common and ordinary folk -- moms, dads, and children -- who under extraordinary threat showed extraordinary faithfulness and integrity. I am sure that such will never happen here -- at least in the foreseeable future. Yet I am also sure that Christians will face increasing threats to their free exercise of religion and that some of these will surely require us to choose between resistance and the consequences and the easy way. It is my hope that I will not relent to the power of fear and the threats of the state and that there will be many more who will stand together in the same conviction and with equal courage. Yet I do not know this. This is my conviction. What I do know is that the Lord will not abandon me or any who under threat, persecution, or slander remain faithful to Him and to His Word.