A number of questions have plagued my thoughts as of late: Why don’t more Christians stand up for the truth? Why do Christian leaders often prefer the status quo over the summum bonum (the highest good)? Why is perceived peace more important than righteousness and truth?
When the apostle Paul saw that Peter was succumbing to hypocrisy, he boldly “opposed him to his face (Gal. 2:11).” I cannot imagine how Peter must have felt in that moment, but because of the Holy Spirit dwelling within him, the confrontation appears to have convicted him toward repentance. In other words, as Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”
James agrees, telling his readers that “if anyone wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).”
In contrast to this, the Lord tells His people through Ezekiel the prophet that the false prophets are condemned “precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace… (Ezekiel 13:10; cf. Jeremiah 6:14).” The people were living in open rebellion against God and their leaders were falsely easing their burdens with lies instead of calling them to repentance with the truth. Judgment was at hand, the wrath of God awaited them, but these leaders were singing them lullabies! Why?
It seems that leaders often fear the people they are leading (this was the situation with the Jewish leaders when planning to arrest Jesus). Jesus says, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).” I’m not suggesting that Christian leaders are afraid of death, at least not here in the United States. But perhaps they are afraid of losing their jobs, offending those who pay their salaries, and giving up their comfortable retirement plans.
Maybe it is something deeper though. Later in the same chapter, Jesus speaks of how his Gospel brings division. Then He begins to lay out a test of one’s love for Him. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me… (Matthew 10:37)” Families are separated over one’s decision to follow Jesus. Similar to what we see today when a Muslim converts to Christianity, in that first century world, one would give up everything to declare “Jesus is Lord!” The test was simple but not easy: who do you choose, Jesus or your father and mother? Jesus or son and daughter? At the core, Jesus asks this–Jesus or your own life?
But it would, perhaps, be better to put it this way: Jesus or your own fallen life? Because He goes on to say, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).” In other words, by dying to ourselves we actually come to find real life.
Why don’t Christian leaders take a stand? Perhaps they haven’t grasped this promise from the Savior. Perhaps they are trying so hard to hold on to something they think is theirs that they are missing out on what could be? This reminds me of Jim Eliot’s famous line, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” but the inverse.
I can only have courage because I love Jesus more than anything else. I only love Jesus more than anything else because I know that Jesus loves me, laid down His life for me, and promises me that in dying to myself I will truly live.