About a month ago one of our members strode into my office with a question. It was heavy on his mind. I think he dropped it on me without even extending a greeting.
“When will it be time for Christians to fight back?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean Christians are being bullied. When will it be time to stand up to bullies?”
“Well…,” I said, stalling for time. “There’s a difference between standing firm and fighting. But you’re asking a question we need to answer.”
After a few minutes of conversation, it was clear what was on his mind: Things like lawsuits against bakers who refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay marriages and judgments against courthouse clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses for a same sex marriage. Most egregious of all are terroristic attacks against Christians in the Middle East–kidnappings and rapes of schoolgirls and systematic beheadings of believers.
The question is complicated by a changing role of the church in society. Recently several high profile Christian leaders have made statements urging their followers to ratchet down the rhetoric in the culture wars, if not withdraw completely, and focus instead on cleaning our own house. The church has plenty of closets to air out.
Focus on the Family has transitioned over the past several years to a much less combative posture than they used to present. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is calling for a shift from confrontation to dialogue. John Stumbo, President of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, has issued similar words of restraint: “We’ll refuse to get into shouting matches over these issues.” Recently Andy Stanley urged Christians to take a year off the culture wars and instead to quit looking at pornography.
For many Christians, a call to stand down sounds like compromise or worse, surrender. Soldiers in battle don’t like not firing back when fired upon.
Some years ago an elder in the church I was serving was telling me about his experience with the Navy in Vietnam. He served on a tiny patrol boat navigating dangerous waters. “We were told not to fire if fired upon,” he said.
“Did you obey the order?” I asked.
“No,” he said with a dismissive laugh. But he was deadly serious. Of course they would return fire!
So we come full circle back to the question of the day: When will it be time for Christians to fight back? We hear a lot about peacemaking and loving those who disagree with us. We hear a lot about not judging those outside the church. (First Corinthians 5:12-13 is clear on that.) But what about those who are bullying Christians? Shouldn’t we defend our-selves? Shouldn’t we return fire?
I’m glad you asked! That’s what we’ll begin to talk about this Sunday at New Life Church. The four-week series is called “A Time to Fight.”