I was told a story recently of a Christian friend who attended a “Carols in the Pub” event but felt uncomfortable and left early. Whilst not wanting to make a big deal out of it, appear judgmental, be over pious, lose an opportunity to be a witness or be a party pooper etc., she was grieved due to the irreverence she saw.
It struck me that this is the quandary that people of God have had to face ever since there was a people of God and no less today when, as part of my watchman on the wall remit, I read news, typically not covered in a balanced way by mainstream media, of Christians who having counted the cost and paid the price, rather than keep their detractors onside and, as often is the case, do so to enjoy a quiet life.
Talking about those who counted the cost and paid the price, I could go back to the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and cite Abel, Enoch and Noah, but I will consider two later characters, one of which only crops up in the Catholic Bible. I am thinking of Daniel who was thrown into the lions’ den for praying to the true God, and a little prior to that, his three friends, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, who were thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to an image. Then there is Judas Maccabees, whose story strangely resonates today. We are currently in the middle of the feast of Hanukkah, a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BC, something that centuries before Daniel prophesied would happen (reference Daniel 11). Judas Maccabees is widely seen as the leader of that revolt. Israel was ruled over by the Greeks who tried to impose an idolatrous culture on the Jews, with the help of Jewish priests. Judas would have nothing to do with this false worship but ultimately paid with his life for the part he played.
An integral part of Jesus’ teaching is we are required to take up our cross and follow Him. In the 2000 years following Jesus dying on the cross there have been those down the ages who, as a result of doing just that and not compromising when it comes to practicing their faith with integrity, have suffered a martyr’s death, and many times over that number, who have counted the cost and paid the price, prepared to suffered the consequences, rather than go with flow like many of their peers, for if doing so they would fall short on truth and conscience grounds. I think of the author of the book I would want with me if I were cast alone on a desert island, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan could have been set free if he obeyed the authorities, who told him he was not allowed to preach without a license, but chose to obey God rather than man, and the price he paid was having to spend several years in jail.
We live in crazy days, a theme I repeatedly return to in my blogs. Sometimes it gets too depressing and I have to ration my time in checking out the craziness, like yesterday the US Congress giving a hero’s welcome to a villain – President Zelensky of Ukraine, or the Scottish Parliament voting to allow children to opt for a sex change operation if they so choose. Then there were stories like a British MP who was suspended from Parliament for questioning the efficacy of Covid-19 “vaccines”, the New Zealand couple who had their baby taken from them for insisting the blood needed for transfusion was from an unvaccinated source, or an English lady arrested for praying silently outside an abortion clinic. Sadly, many Christians reading these examples don’t know and / or don’t care. It seems to me that it is of great importance to be His witnesses, more so than witnessing from the point of view of telling people they are sinners who need to be saved. All of which begs the question: how to go about this?
I suggest, whether or not to attend / remain at a carols in a pub event, is a matter of individual conscience, but I refuse to feel bad if I choose to leave given the circumstances facing my friend. No more do I feel bad, with reference to my recent “The Church, Christian Unity and now that I’m old” blog (see here), for not going along with my woke Christian friends with their fixation on issues like Climate Change, Black Lives Matter or LBGT inclusion, or my non woke Christian friends for rolling over in the face of lies by the Unholy Trinity (see here) on matters like Corona and vaccines, rigged elections and the war in Ukraine. I am not a good Christian, insofar I have not always been the sort of witness Jesus had in mind when He commissioned His disciples before ascending into heaven. It is no excuse for not doing what we ought; we are all accountable.
When I wrote my book “Outside the Camp” (see here), ten years ago, I can rightly claim I did get involved with the wider community (all faiths and none), especially at the bottom end of society. Not long after, I started a blog, which among other things reflected on my community activism. An example of this is, I spent five years managing a church winter night shelter, as a volunteer. The volunteer cohort I worked with represented all types but united in helping those who would otherwise be sleeping rough. Besides good Christians from my church, my team included a militant atheist, an unrepentant anarchist, a woke leftie, a rabid rightie, a Muslim, a same sex couple and someone disaffected by anything to do with church – and all were fantastic and all got on with one another.
My point is simple and straightforward and it is back to the words of Jesus about what it is expected of us who claim to be His disciples. What is evident is different Christians see things different, e.g. on the subject of Christmas (including carols in the pub), as discussed in my recent “Should Christians celebrate Christmas (and if so how)? – a personal response” blog (see here), and here there is room to agree to disagree gracefully. Besides the importance of being godly, kind and faithful, discussed in my recent “Three Christian virtues I could and should have paid more attention to when I was young” blog (see here), I might add the matters of pursuit of truth and being true to our conscience.
As an observation, going back to my earlier woke and non-woke Christian comment, I suggest as Christians we should hold our nerve and, while being wise so as not to alienate people unduly, we must embrace the virtues of the king (told to us in Psalm 45) who is coming to reign. Even if the true Church gets ostracized for sticking to its guns, God will surely honour her and, moreover, there will never be a shortage of poor, oppressed and marginalized this godly remnant can serve. We are in the midst of a ginormous spiritual war where the forces of Satan are pitted against those of God. When the demons who influence and control many see authentic Christianity, it disturbs them and they do all they can to oppose us. We must stand our ground despite the opposition, yet not claim persecution when acting foolishly. We are not in the world to impress the world, and neither are we beholden to please other Christians, but rather we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.