Things appeared bleak. The righteous cause was at a critical crossroads. Opposition was fierce. Many in the culture, including some fellow Christian leaders, were not applauding his just and noble struggle. Would hate win? Languishing in a Birmingham jail, the future was uncertain. At that moment, the lonely, imprisoned hero started to write, penning a passionate plea. The man was pastor Martin Luther King, Jr.
Now is such a time. We are at a critical cultural crossroads. You could almost cut the tension with a knife as we nervously awaited the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage edict. Would marriage be redefined? Would the radical LGBT agenda have the last word? Will religious freedom continue to evaporate, becoming a burnt offering on the pagan idol of radical sexual liberty? And what is the Christian response?
These questions remain profoundly vexing to faithful Christian culture warriors in light of the 5-4 decision, coercively imposing a same-sex “marriage” regime on the citizens of all fifty states. Five justices could not locate this “right” anywhere in the constitutional text or judicial precedents, so the elite “enlightened” jurists opted to act as super-legislators and simply make it up! Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, announced the newly discovered “right” to genderless “marriage,” describing it in such glowing and confusing terms as “spiritual” and “transcendent,” almost sounding as if he were a neo-pagan Moses figure delivering revised commandments to modern America. But this is certainly no laughing matter. Gays and their allies, waiving rainbow flags in celebration, ought rather to mourn. God has not changed. And He will not be mimicked or mocked! This overreaching edict has significant negative implications not only for marriage, the family, and religious freedom, but it profoundly undermines federalism, the separation of powers, and the right of “we the people” to govern ourselves.
Yet, perhaps nothing has been more disappointing in the days leading up to the radical ruling, than capitulating Christian leaders congratulating each other for their cultural compromise and apostasy. We must not confuse cultural cowardice and capitulation with true courage. These anti-heroes must not be emulated.
The pathetic pattern these “leaders” represent is neither novel nor new—nor, in spite of the claims of cheering fellow-apostates, is it evolved or enlightened. What is the pattern? Growing pagan cultural pressure leads to personal compromise on biblical truth, usually resulting from an inordinate fear of man. Over time, compromise of biblical truth leads to capitulation due to cultural coercion. These patterns often result in near-total assimilation to the increasingly pagan culture. Yet this so-called “Christianity” is no longer unique or distinct, nor is it actually Christian. Salt, having lost is saltiness, is destined to be thrown out and trampled (Matthew 5:13). As my pastor recently said, “Sin makes you stupid.” Repentance is desperately needed and it starts with God’s people (II Chronicles 7:14).
So, who are models of Christian leadership we should follow? There is William Wilberforce, who eventually succeeded in his decades-long efforts to end the slave trade and improve cultural virtues in England. Consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer who heroically, overtly and covertly, stood up to the Nazification of the German Lutheran church and the German people. And there’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who employed biblically principled non-violent protests to end segregation and procure legitimate civil rights. Note that two of these men had the honor of paying the ultimate price for their courage—King via a hate-filled bullet and Bonhoeffer “tried” and summarily asphyxiated by piano wire at a Gestapo prison within weeks of Germany’s liberation.
Having few authentic Christian champions today as role models in this present darkness, we need to ask ourselves, “What does Christian courage look like?” Here are a few thoughts based on the lives of the three bold men mentioned above:
- Biblical: Maintains a high view of the absolute authority of God’s word and God’s authority in our lives. Believes in transcendent objective truth and that truth sets people free from the bondage and desolation of sin. Refuses to compromise clear biblical teaching and convictions. Realizes God defines marriage, not the U.S. Supreme Court. Understands that civil rights are “endowed by our Creator” and must not be diminished by the state. Celebrates gender distinctions as part of God’s beautiful plan for mankind. Believes that where there is a moral conflict “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Comprehends that God had the first word on marriage and that He will have the last.
- Compassionate: Shares a deep and passionate love for God and love for all people, even our enemies, who are image bearers of the Imago Dei. Does not shrink back from opportunities to share the Gospel. As MLK wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” As Dr. Michael Brown said, “[When it comes to standing for truth], we must have hearts of compassion and backbones of steel.”
- Actively Engaged: Genuinely loves people enough to engage in biblically principled acts of love, mercy, and justice, helping to make communities and the culture a better place for all. Prays and works so that God’s kingdom comes and His will is done. Understands, as King stated, that “[i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Is deeply concerned about future generations (i.e. children and grandchildren) and is willing to take direct action when necessary to oppose unjust laws that contradict higher moral law.
- Vocal: Refuses to be silent. Opposes cultural propaganda and lies, winsomely speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). As Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Understands that truth eventually dispels lies.
- Expects Opposition: Understands spiritual warfare, that we have an enemy who has come to lie, steal, and destroy (Eph. 6:10-20). Is not surprised by criticism, persecution, or fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12). Fears God more than he or she fears man or desires man’s praise (Matthew10:28)! Understands that biblical truth-telling is increasingly radical today. As George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
- Sacrificially Faithful and Uncompromising: Comprehends that freedom is not free and is willing to persistently pay the price to stand for truth, justice, and righteousness, no matter what opposition is faced. Is determined to stand firm and not compromise. Prioritizes God’s kingdom over personal comfort, success, conformity, and pleasure. Is strong in the Lord and remains immovable. Is not easily distracted or intimidated.
- Holy Spirit fueled: Is not dependent on his or her own meager resources, but relies on the power of God’s word and promises and the leading and dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. Understands that a powerful move of God can radically transform people and cultures overnight.
- Victorious: Has confidence in the heavenly Father’s plan for marriage and the wisdom and strength only God can provide. Understands that moral and sexual anarchy contain the seeds of their own destruction. Has faith and hope in the fact that, no matter how dark it gets, Jesus wins in the end and we win with Him! God will have the final say on marriage as He will on all things!
True Christian courage is not the absence of fear; it is allowing the Spirit to harness the power of your fears and cooperating with God to overcome your feelings and do the right thing anyway. The Reverend Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” You have the opportunity to be a bold hero every day. You will strengthen and encourage others as you faithfully obey Christ without wavering.
Authentic biblical Christianity has always been counter-cultural. And so it is today. The darkness descending upon us in the wake of the redefinition of marriage brings unprecedented challenges but also unprecedented opportunities to continue to model and demonstrate God’s love and God’s truth. Especially now that we have lost the marriage battle at the Supreme Court, one thing is certain—we will need a lot of Christian courage going forward.
Light shines the brightest in the darkness. Now is the time for Christian boldness, bravery, determination, fortitude, endurance, tenacity, valor, backbone, guts, power, heroism and lion-heartedness. Vast opportunities to be a powerful Christian witness in our communities and culture are multiplying before our very eyes. The chances to be bright lights and savory salt are legion. We must not lose heart or shrink back! We must remember that we are not called to always be “successful,” but we are always called to be faithful. Let us determine to always be faithful and to leave the success to our sovereign God.
Got courage? You will need it! Boldly and joyfully run to the battle, knowing that our victory is sure!
— by Dean R. Broyles, Esq.
Broyles is a constitutional attorney serving as the President of The National Center For Law & Policy (NCLP), an organization fighting to promote and defend religious freedom. Copyright© The National Center For Law & Policy. Reprinted with permission.