Christian Courage or Christian Compromise? (Guinness)

Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization by [Guinness, Os] Impossible People is an excellent book by Os Guinness that discusses what it means to courageously and faithfully follow Jesus in our Western culture that is more and more antagonistic towards the claims of the Christian faith.  We always need a call to stand up for the truth when the going gets tough.  This applies to our current situation as well, since it is illegal in some places to publicly worship our King, Jesus.  I realize our “quarantine” situation is not a black-and-white one, but whatever the case, we do need to put following Christ and his word first on our list of priorities as his people.   Obedience to him is more important than the laws of man and our own personal health.

After Guinness discussed Christian courage and faithfulness in light of persecution in the East he wrote,

“And what of us in the West? Are we showing that we too are prepared to follow Jesus and his authority at any cost?  When an imperceptible bow would have saved Daniel’s three friends, they defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s idolatry at the threat of being burned alive.  When simply closing a window and drawing his curtains could have saved Daniel himself, he chose to risk the lions rather than mute his allegiance to God.  When a mere whiff of incense would have saved their lives, early Christians refused to acknowledge Caesar as lord rather than Jesus and were made human torches or the evening meal for wild animals.  When it seemed quixotic to take on the emporer, the empress, and all the empire, Athanasius took his stand for truth ‘contra mundum’ (against the world) and was exiled five times for his faithfulness.  When he was told he was arrogant or out of his mind to follow his conscience and defy the consensus of tradition, Martin Luther stood firm in the face of the fiery stake that had cremated Jan Hus before him….

What then of us? Are we living in the light of the great cloud of witnesses and martyrs who have gone before us?  Or in the comfortable conditions of the advanced modern world, where the seductions of modernity are more of a threat to our faithfulness than persecution? In the golden era of the Roman Empire, Pliny the Younger advised Emperor Trajan that Christians should be executed solely for their tenacity and intransigence.  ‘Whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakable obstinancy ought not to go unpunished.’  The similar charge in the death of many martyrs was routine: ‘Since they remained unbending, obstinate, I have condemned them.’

Would we be convicted today for being stubborn, tenacious, unbending, and obstinate? It is surely undeniable that only rarely in Christian history has the lordship of Jesus in the West been treated as more pliable or has Christian revisionism been more brazen, Christian interpretations of the Bible more self-serving, Christian preaching more soft, Christian behavior more lax, Christian compromise more common, Christian defections from the faith more casual, and Christian rationales for such slippage more suprious and shameless.

…It is time, and past time, to turn this situation around and take a stand worthy of our Lord – before the cock crows and we are left with the bitter regret that our brothers and sisters around the world stood firm and paid with their lives, but our generation in the West betrayed our Lord in such a pitiful way….

Yes, this is a pretty blunt way of speaking, but also very necessary.  I highly recommend this book if you need an encouraging and motivating read for help on the journey of following Jesus with Christian courage.

Os Guinness, Impossible People, p. 29-30.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

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