Let’s pause to say a word in favor of courage

Do not be afraid of them.  If you are, I will humiliate you in front of them.  –God to Jeremiah, chapter 1. 

Be strong and of good courage.  –God to Joshua.  Moses to Joshua. Israelites to Joshua.  (6 times at the end of Deuteronomy and through Joshua chapter 1. Apparently, the man had some issues with shyness.) 

Agree with Colin Kaepernick, the editor of Christianity Today, or the editor of Charisma magazine or not; you have to admire their courage.

They didn’t have to take the stand they took.  It cost Kaepernick his job in the NFL, meaning zillions of dollars.  The editorial from Christianity Today calling for the removal of President Trump has cost the magazine a ton of cancellations.  The editor of Charisma magazine? Aw, probably nothing.  It’s just a personal thing.

For those who have been on Mars the last few years, Colin Kaepernick is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who, in 2016, chose to kneel during the National Anthem rather than stand with his hand over his heart. He was protesting police brutality and racism in this country, he said.  Under any other circumstance, we would say that kneeling is superior to standing and shows more honor, except if that was his intention he sure didn’t get the message across.  It became one of the most divisive acts in sports and the American people rose up in arms.  A large, vocal segment of them, at any rate.

Kaepernick has been out of football the last couple of years, and there is no indication he will be returning.  Even if a team felt he could help them, they fear fan reaction.

Kaepernick remains a lightning rod in somewhat the same way that forty-eight years after Jane Fonda went to Hanoi and was photographed sitting atop a North Vietnam anti-aircraft gun, she is still hated by a large strata of Americans.

Even saying that what Kaepernick did was courageous will not earn me any points with a great many of my friends.  They see it as treasonous, cowardly, and a lot of other things.

When Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief Mark Galli wrote an editorial calling for the removal of President Trump for a host of reasons, the President’s evangelical supporters went ballistic.  Rather than respond to the editorial’s assertions, most resorted to name-calling and slamming the magazine as having left its conservative, Bible-based roots.  The magazine responded that it is still conservative, still pro-life and pro-family.  One report I saw indicated that for each cancellation from the editorial, the magazine has received three new subscriptions.

My point here is simply that agree or disagree, it was a courageous thing to do.  Back in 2016, that magazine’s editor (at the time) went public opposing Trump’s election.  He said, “Trump is the biblical definition of a fool.”  I could not recall a time when a Christian magazine had ever taken such a public stand.

That editor has since retired. On his own terms, I hear, and was not forced out.

Whatever else one may feel about CT magazine, they do not fear taking an unpopular stand.  And I for one admire that.

And the Charisma magazine?  Have you heard of it?  It’s an online publication that, as the name implies, caters primarily to the charismatic–i.e., Pentecostal-type–segment of the Christian family.  They tend to be Arminian in their theology. Which is why I was surprised a couple of years back when they reprinted an article of mine on the doctrine of “security of the believer,” popularly known as “once saved always saved.”

Now, to explain, any online magazine that runs my stuff picks it up off this website.  Several editors of cyber-publications have contacted me over the years asking for permission.  In each case, I’ve said that once it’s posted, they’re welcome to it.  No money is involved, and no further communication ever takes place.  The first I know when a magazine is running anything I wrote is when it shows up online.

So, when I saw that Charisma was running it–if you can imagine a Mormon magazine running my article saying Joseph Smith was a charlatan (yep, I’ve written that!), you get the idea–I made a mistake. I began reading the comments.

Uh oh.  Not a good idea.

The readers were mean-spirited and completely negative.  According to them, I was an unbeliever, a Bible-denier, the starkest liberal, and an embarrassment to the cause of Christ.  The editor must have had a death-wish, one said, to print such garbage.  “Garbage?” I thought.  I mainly quoted the Lord’s own words.

Later I contacted the editor to ask if he was in trouble as a result of running the article.  “Nope,” he laughed.  “I just thought it was worth people looking at and considering.”

He had more courage than I would have.

The question about all of this, of course…

When you are considering taking a huge risk in your ministry, you have to decide whether it would be courageous or fool-hardy.  Would it be faith or presumption?

Is it worth dying on that hill?

A dog can whip a skunk, as the saying goes, but it’s not worth it.

Some public stands are too risky, too foolhardy, too dangerous.  You might win the battle but lose the war.

So, how is one to know whether to take a public stand on some controversial issue?

Satan said to Jesus, “Go ahead. Cast yourself down from here. After all, Scripture says His angels will bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone. You can’t possibly get hurt”  Our Lord answered, “Yes, and Scripture says we are not to tempt the Lord our God.” (My free version of Matthew 4)

A professor at Oral Roberts University wrote a book some years back which I found helpful. From the Pinnacle of the Temple by Charles Farah had as its subtitle: “Faith or Presumption.”  Presumption is when we claim something God has not promised, go where God did not send, believe something God did not teach.  The people who “claimed” the resurrection of the pastor’s little daughter in the last few days were being presumptuous. God has never promised that we will raise the dead or that He would do so in response to our prayers.  (Please note I did not say they were wrong in asking, but wrong in claiming that God had promised such.  He did not.)

To claim  or preach such is not faith, but presumption.  Scripture says, “Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins” (Psalm 19:13).

Let us applaud true courage wherever we see it. After all, a text we all apply to ourselves often is God’s word to Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1).

You do not have to agree with my stand to be impressed with my faith.

Post script. Sometimes when I have taken a stand on Facebook or this website on a political issue and people choose up sides to agree or disagree, someone will thank me for my courage.  I reply that it takes small courage to take a stand now since I am retired and have no constituency.  But the pastor who is still in the arena, still facing the lions, he is the one who needs great courage.

Pray for your pastors.



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