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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Resolve, Ready, Resist: Three Steps To Taking A Stand

Confessing Church Founders Release Barmen Declaration
Even as a kid, whenever I would learn about the horrific events of the Holocaust I always wondered, “How could this happen? How did the German people allow this to happen?” Six million Jews and five million others the Fuehrer deemed to be enemies or undesirables were targeted for systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder.

I thought, like most people probably would, “I would have stood up. I would have done something to stop this.” There’s little risk in looking back and imagining ourselves as standing on the right side of history, of course. Converting that idealism into present-day action, however, is often more complicated.

For example, the Confessing Church, a small minority who rallied together to oppose Nazi interference in church doctrine and leadership, was limited in it’s resistance to the Nazis. The movement’s courageous Barmen Declaration focused on the core matter of protecting the identity of the church rather than voicing opposition to the Nazi regime or the persecution of the Jews. Church leaders paid a price for even this intentionally focused and restrained form of resistance. Martin Niemöller, Heinrich Grüber, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were all sent to concentration camps. Niemöller and Grüber survived, Bonhoeffer did not. These Christians stood as best they could, in their own way as they believed God was directing them at that time. 

What does it look like to “stand” in our day? Standing requires three vital commitments: Resolve, Ready, Resist.

Resolve. We must first decide to stand in the first place. Recent political scandals and abuses of authority have increased the expectation that things could begin to rapidly worsen for conservatives, libertarians, traditionalists, Christians, and other people of faith in America. We now know that President Obama’s IRS intentionally targets conservative, Christian, and Jewish individuals and groups for harassment and intimidation.

The abuses of one administration typically become standard operating procedures in the next. And it’s not just conservatives and Christians who have cause for concern. Americans across the political spectrum are effected, for instance, by the government’s illegal searches and seizures of our private data and communications. As one recent social media meme put it, “If you aren’t on a government watch list by now, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Evidence of threats to our liberty can be seen everywhere we turn. Have the scandals of the past few months caused us to forget the HHS abortion mandate in Obamacare? The attempts at reinterpreting “proselytization” to mean military chaplains can no longer share the Gospel? The transformation of biblical teachings into hate speech due to the implications of gay marriage? What does it look like to stand in our day?

Look around. There’s a reason and a place to stand almost anywhere your eye lands. At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial these words are etched into the wall, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Now is such a time. Resolve to stand.

Ready. Once we have decided to stand we must prepare ourselves. We could hardly do better than to look to Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 6:10-20. Take the time to meditate on this passage. It is rich with descriptions of the nature of our spiritual and ideological warfare, the supreme resources available to us, the importance of the Word of God and prayer, and firm exhortations to remain alert and stand. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Abraham Lincoln once said, “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Prepare to stand. 

Another aspect of making ourselves ready is counting the cost. The craft store chain Hobby Lobby has had to fight the Obama Administration in court over the Obamacare mandate to provide contraceptive coverage An attorney for Hobby Lobby has stated, “Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plan. Hobby Lobby will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties.” Hobby Lobby has chosen to stand and faces fines of $1.3 million per day refusing to comply.

Barmen Declaration author Karl Barth
and MLK, Jr., Princeton 1962. 
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King expressed the importance of making ourselves ready: “We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved. So we decided to go through a process of self-purification. We started having workshops on nonviolence and repeatedly asked ourselves the questions, ‘Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?’ and ‘Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?’” Make yourself ready to stand.

Resist. Resolve to stand, make yourself ready to stand, then stand. The Apostle Paul turns to a warfare motif once again in 2 Corinthians 10: “3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Strongholds are great ideological fortresses. There’s only one way to destroy error and that is with truth. When we find people and even governments entrenched in these ideological fortresses, we assault the fortress with the truth. Our ideas take on flesh and blood as we take our stand. We resist.

God calls us to be faithful. We may not be “successful” as the world considers success but a Christian’s success lies in obedience and faithfulness. William Wilberforce continually introduced anti-slavery measures in the English parliament for 18 years before the slave trade was finally abolished in 1807. He then had to wait until 1833, shortly before his death, to see the existing slaves freed.

Likewise, we must be prepared to “run the race with endurance,” as the apostle Paul put it, knowing that things may get much worse before they get better. The outcomes we hope for may never come in our lifetimes but we can establish and maintain a faithful witness nonetheless. No effort is wasted. Only eternity will reveal the full impact of our words and deeds.

Within the United States Holocaust Museum there is an infamous mountain of shoes of the prisoners killed in the concentration camps. Commenting on the shoes, Moishe Shulstein wrote the poem, I Saw a Mountain
We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses. We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers, From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam, And because we are only made of fabric and leather And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire. 
Mr. Shulstein, in a poetic manner, was testifying about the Jews who did not avoid the fires. The shoes they removed from their feet were the last witnesses who saw the fate of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

Shoes will not be the witnesses of our day. Let us not allow our children and grandchildren to say, “How could this happen? How did the American people allow this to happen?”

Resolve to stand, make ready to stand, then stand.

This article originally appeared at ClashDaily.com.

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