“Where is it important for you and your church to hold your nerve and remain unafraid in the face of opposition?” That’s the last line from N.T. Wright in his For Everyone commentary on this particular passage. And oh the places we could go... The culture wars are at high pitch–but then again when are they not? With the advent of social media and instantaneous communication/hot takes, the legitimate and manufactured outrage sectors are full steam ahead.
I am here for a good discussion. I am here for chewing on the complexities of human society and the human condition. I’m not so much here for instant reactions based on preconceived notions that were likely shaped by whatever echo chamber you frequent. “I don’t know why you always have to be judging me?” Ok. Sorry, I’m a little too harsh out of the gate…
It’s just that I can hear all of the responses to Wright’s question about where we should remain unafraid of the opposition. We do a good job of building walls. We do a good job of retreating into our own camps and then rallying the battle cries to keep the outsider out. Jesus, though, he went outside the camp! (v 12-13)
And so my answer to where we should hold our nerve? My answer to facing down the opposition is to redefine the opposition. I do not think the main opposition is from without, but that is within. To sum it up, I will borrow a phrase from my friend and one of the great influences on my human journey that he used to sign off with all of his emails.
For a time I had a few stickers made and rolled with one on my Blue Camry. Folks used to wonder what I was saying about my town. What about BS Trash they may think… But the letters stand for Boiling Springs:
The Rebellion Starts Here. (Or sometimes Revolution depending on who was translating the elvish at the time)
Here’s the thing. The great Rebellion is against the forces within me that call me to be violent. That call me to be greedy. Self-serving. Arrogant. Judgmental. Vengeful. That call me to hang on to that grudge. That call me to devalue other human beings by using them as an object–to satisfy my desire or to jockey for position. I could go on, but you get the gist.
It’s easy, isn’t it? It sure is for me. It’s easy to identify the folks who are doing things wrong. If only they would… If I were them here’s how I would do it… It’s much easier to point the finger at all the things that are awry out there. It makes me feel comfortable, makes me feel in control, to accuse and convict. Satan is the accuser, right? So when I get into accusation and conviction mode on my own, I pray I will hear the words Jesus used to Peter–Get Behind Me!
Perhaps this is oversimplified. I’m aware that through time and space there has been real opposition to the Gospel. Real physical and spiritual opposition… but…
It still seems to me that the battle that rages is primarily in me. How willing am I to turn the other cheek? How willing am I to reach out a hand to those society deems untouchable? How willing am I to listen to the still small voice that nudges me to let go of my own selfish motivations and seek the good of others? To consider others better than myself? To carry my own cross? To lay down my life? To seek the Christ even while the spiritual forces of the world are blaring in my mind to forget everyone else and just look out for me…
Will I be able to hold my nerve? Will I be able to face down that kind of opposition? When things get really tough and maybe it feels like I’m all alone in seeking the Christ. Of course, I am not alone, but it sure can feel like that sometimes.
I pray for patience, humility, and grace to Rebel against those forces! That it would start here. With me. With us. Because we are assured that the Gospel will indeed spread like yeast through dough. We don’t have to force it or defend it. It is! It will be!
27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.