The world needs Christians bold enough to follow the truth wherever it may take them.
Weirdo fundamentalist John the Baptist was imprisoned. We know that the Romans did not have a reputation for putting up with large Jewish followings for very long. It’s possible that John’s leadership was so attractive, his baptism ministry and his prophetic truth so popular among the spiritually hungry, that the regional magistrates thought of him as a threat. Whenever any Jew seemed to get too big for their britches, the Romans would hang them on a cross.
But in this particular case, Matthew 14 says that John was put in prison because he criticized Herod for having his brother’s wife. He had the audacity to not just preach against sin, but to say to a sinner in need of repentance, “You’re a sinner in need of repentance.” John was not interested in following a theoretical God and engaging in academic spirituality. He followed the personal God whose word of truth matters.
Some who profess the faith today are refusing to do the same for much less severe consequences. They fear insults, marginalization, the judgment of the world. Some depart from the great tradition not out of fear of the world but because they love the world (and not in the way God does).
Given what is taking place in the world today, do we have any indications that to follow Christ will become more and more comfortable? The Bible Belt, long the cultural bastion of “biblical values,” has long been heading toward the spiritual ruins of post-Christendom. Cultural Christianity is wasting away. And the outside world is becoming more and more hostile to the things of faith. Even some professing Christians are becoming hostile to those who will not move according to the shifting winds of the culture. And if God is doing anything in ordaining these cultural shifts to come to pass, it may be this: We are finding out who the real Christians are. (Even today, some are announcing in anger and embarrassment that they will never again call themselves evangelical, to which we must respond with all sincerity and soberness, “Thank you.”)
Maybe he is sifting out his churches that his Church might rise up.
John the Baptist had said to Herod, “It isn’t right that you have your brother’s wife!” He spoke truth to power about sexual immorality. Which is not a very popular subject today either. The bloggers would pontificate on John’s missing the point of God’s love; the tweeters would quote him and hashtag “wow.”
Eventually John is executed in prison. Why? Because as the sexualization of the power center increased — Herod’s later watching his niece dance seductively, and overcome by lust, he promises her anything, and prompted by her mother, Herod’s sister-in-law and mistress, she asks for John the Baptist’s head — the righteous indignation of the faithful seemed more and more egregious. Not just fundamentalist but fascist. What is good is now considered evil, what is evil now good. And Herod, though he sort of admires John and thinks there’s some truth to John, complies and has John executed.
So. How far was John willing to go? While things were heating up, getting worse, John was not backing down. He was willing to follow the truth no matter where it took him, even to his death. Faithful Christians in the West do not face death but hatred, perhaps simply the death of esteem, respect. Okay, then. Gird your emotional loins, then.
What we need are bold Christians — Christians bold enough to disappoint anybody necessary for the contending of the faith. What we need are Christians so in worshipful awe of Jesus Christ, that they can spot counterfeit gospels (and counterfeit arguments) in seconds and call them out. What the world needs are Christians who love their reputations not, even unto derision. What we need are Christians so committed to Christ, that they will go to their crosses to affirm all that he said, not just the popular parts.