Elephants Banned from the Sanctuary
Recently I have been pondering the aversion of evangelicals to talking about, praying about, doing something about the very big issues, elephants, of persecuted Christians, abortion, and political intrusion on Christianity. It is not that we resist talking about the elephants in the room because they never even make it into the room. It is not like Thelma who has so much lipstick all over her teeth that everyone notices and is wondering, “Are her gums bleeding,” but no one will mention a word. In the sanctuary on Sunday morning no one is wondering what the pastor will say, or how much he will pray, about Christians being slaughtered in Syria. The thought crosses hardly anyone’s mind . No elephant is present to talk about.
But why do we exclude issues so mammoth and so clearly within the sphere of Christian responsibility from our church life?
We have provided three reasons in the previous two posts, but we have reserved what I believe to be the dominant one for today.
No Place for Fighting
Love constitutes a major theme in the New Testament, if not the dominant theme. Another high profile contemporary evangelical concept is unconditional acceptance. Contemporary evangelicals have morphed love into the mold of unconditional acceptance. To love is to accept unconditionally. This results in reducing our understanding of agape to being nice. In a previous post we noted that “thou shalt be nice” has become the greatest and first evangelical commandment, with the second commandment being, “Thou shalt make sure your neighbor thinks you are being nice.” To do something that is not nice, or even for someone to think what you are doing is not nice, is the ultimate expression of un-Christian behavior. And if this occurs, we better do whatever it takes to make our neighbor know that we are being nice. Having a bad testimony results from anything appearing not to be nice.
The Elimination of Fighting
This perspective leaves no place for fighting since fighting is not nice. Christian living is all about grace and peace. This moratorium on militancy has robbed the church of an essential element of Christian character. It seems to have depleted contemporary evangelical Christians of all fighting spirit.
- This absence of militancy can be observed in the unwillingness of most pastors to do battle with sin from the pulpit and elsewhere.
- It also shows up in the non-combative spirit of Christian counselors in dealing with psychological issues such as depression. I believe there can be a time for medication, but for most people struggling with depression this represents unconditional surrender. The first pass should entail an assault on the negative and unbiblical thought-life that in most cases is a cause of depression. Our lack of fighting spirit often prevents us from doing battle in this arena.
- Discipleship to be effective must to some extent take on the character of a boot camp, which calls for the presence of a drill sergeant. We find the apostle Paul assuming that role numerous times in the epistles. However, this motif does not fall into the purview of contemporary evangelical culture because drill sergeants are infamous for not being nice.
- Among contemporary evangelicals I seldom sense any militancy in prayer, a fighting spirit in taking on the hosts of hell and their evil works. It seems that most of our prayers reflect the image of Mr. Rogers, not to mention Carl Rogers.
- Likewise, many other components of the contemporary evangelical church reveal the evisceration of our fighting spirit.
A Place for Fighting
Notice the dissonance between this commitment to niceness and the words of Christ, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) In addition, the Bible is full of military imagery, referring to us as soldiers of Jesus Christ, speaking of spiritual weapons, and calling us to fight the good fight of faith.
Though most of this fighting is not physical, some is. A contingent of evangelicals are pacifists, but most would not fit into that category. Therefore, when we send our young men off to combat we believe they are doing the will of God.
But more significant, militancy is needed in our fight with the devil and his works, by prayer, by preaching, and by confronting evil in our society and beyond.
This brings us to our banning of elephants from the church sanctuary. Dealing with issues such as persecuted Christians, abortion, and political assault on our Christian freedoms requires that we fight.
Consequently, dealing with these issues is foreign to our DNA. Not being fighters, thinking about and talking about these issues is awkward. What do we do with them if we won’t fight them? The only alternative seems to be to ignore them. While fellow Christians and babies continue to be murdered, while the forces from the left continue to tighten the noose around our necks, like Neville Chamberlain we have opted for peace in our time, all the while maintaining our Christian testimony by being nice. Unless we adopt a biblical willingness to fight, someday we will be trampled by elephants.
“But fight how?” you may ask. “What can the church do to stop these atrocities?” I plan to discuss that next.