It was a cold night in Minneapolis, MN in 1997 while I was attending Bible College at North Central University. I was at Barnes and Noble’s studying when I overheard a couple of people talking about Christians. As I listened I could tell they were disgruntled, so I eased my way over to listen to the conversation. What I heard next was some of the most discouraging things I think I have ever heard.
One person of the group said, “I think Christians go to Bible College to learn how to be more judgmental.” As I was preparing to write this week, that scene replayed in my mind and begs me to ask this question: When the world looks back on the history of the church how will we be remembered? Will we be remembered for our religious bigotry or our self-righteousness or as hypocrites or cowards or will we be remembered as courageous men and women who identified with people like William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jesus who made a stand against evil, corruption, and abuse.
In America and Europe there has been this drastic distortion of Christianity, as it has been married to pacifism. There are preachers and believers all over our country who believe and teach that self-defense, military service, and law enforcement are all anti-thetical to the Christian Faith. This is propagated by the idea that when Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek,” He meant that in every encounter, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it, we should turn the other cheek and do nothing, by which we allow evil to take place. In this false reality, robbery, murder, and abuse are treated the same as suffering for the faith.
What I think has been overlooked is that this false teaching has led men to be unwilling to stand up for righteousness and stand against evil; this is called cowardice. Think about this, where would the United States of America be had the men in the colonies believed in this version of “Biblical pacifism”? Where would African-Americans be had not William Wilberforce stood up for righteousness or if Abraham Lincoln had not used military might to set the slaves free?
If you look back in our history, you can actually see what happens when men adopt the role of pacifism and cowardice. For example, look at the treatment of the Native Americans or African American slaves? Where were Godly men to stand up against the evil that was forced on them? I think it is obvious the church was silent, hiding behind the skirts of political correctness, tolerance, and the turn the other cheek mentality.
If you want a more recent example, we see it again with the rise of Nazism. Where was the Church at large when Hitler was massacring Jewish people? They were silent yet again, parading around in cowardice. Yet there was a godly man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who aggressively spoke out against the evils of Nazism and Hitler.
But it didn’t stop there: he declared that the church must not simply “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.” Dietrich became involved in the running of intelligence, the freeing of Jewish people, and was taking very active steps to have Hitler removed from power.
The Scriptures are very clear that it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, to stand up for the oppressed, and bring deliverance to those in slavery. Why then have the values of pacifism and cowardice infiltrated the church as godly characteristics? I believe because we lost the heart of God we misuse Scripture in order to justify our weakness and cowardice. What would our world look like if we modeled the virtues of heroism, courage, and sacrifice found in book of Hebrews when it tells us what real faith looks like?
Hebrews 11:33-34 “who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight…”
Image: Model for Wellington Monument – Valour and Cowardice; courtesy of David Jackson