CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Let’s Show Some Backbone Here

Nov 23, 2012

Hate to say it, but some of the most wussy people I know are Christians: the slightest thing can set them off, send them running, or cause them to make a stink. Where are believers with backbone, with courage, with determination? Why do we have such an effeminate church today?

I suppose entire books could be written on this. Part of the reason would be the wholesale acceptance of dopey ideas into the church – ideas which have nothing to do with biblical Christianity, but everything to do with namby-pamby secular humanism.

All the baloney about tolerance and acceptance is a big part of this – you know, the idea that we should just accept everything, every idea, every lifestyle, every ideology, every worldview, and every activity that is out there, all in the name of somehow being more Christlike.

Yeah right – you mean like when he deliberately fashioned a whip and used it as he overturned tables in a holy rage; or when he rebuked Peter to the face and called him Satan; or when he pronounced woe after woe on the Pharisees? There was nothing effeminate, wussy or mousey about Jesus.

And when he comes back to kick butt big time he will scare the living daylights out of everyone who encounters him. People will be terrified of him and his wrath, and will seek to hide in caves. Don’t believe me? Try reading your Bibles again – or if need be, for the very first time.

Begin with Revelation 6:15-17: “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’”

Yet so many believers seem like wimpy church mice. Sure, many of us are tired, many of us are weary, and many of us are ready to go to our heavenly home and our eternal rest. But hey, there is a job to be done – there is plenty of work left to do. As Yahweh told Joshua, “there remains yet very much land to be possessed” (Josh 13:1).

Now is not the time to give up. Now is not the time to go on and on, whining and complaining. Now is not the time to wuss out. If anyone had a reason to do all this, it would be Jeremiah. Talk about somebody who went through the wars. Talk about someone who was bruised, bloody, and battle-weary.

Consider one of his famous “confessions” where he lets it all hang out before God. Remember this famous reply to one of these? “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5)

I guess a bit of background context is in order here. In Jer 11:18-23 we read of a nasty plot to take Jeremiah’s life. In the first four verses of ch 12 Jeremiah makes a lament or complaint to God. Many of the usual beefs come up here, such as “why do the wicked prosper?” They are certainly valid questions for him to raise, especially given all that he had been through.

The rest of chapter 12 contains God’s reply. Verse five is the first part of his response, and it is a classic word of not-so-gentle rebuke and admonition. The prophet’s lot is not an easy one, and many more difficult days ahead will come. So ‘stop the whining, gird up your loins, and get on with the job,’ is in effect what Yahweh tells Jeremiah.

As Mackay puts it, “God does not explain the workings of his providence; nor does he seek to cheer up the prophet by pointing to some set of good times to come. Instead his words are brusque and challenging. This perhaps permits us to gauge how Jeremiah’s complaint ought to be read in this context. He has been speaking in a voice of self-pity at the hardship he has sustained and the trials he is having to undergo in the discharge of his divine commission. The Lord is warning him that he has not yet experienced anything very much at all.”

Or as J. Andrew Dearman comments, God’s reply “is less an answer and more a somber indication that to run the race of prophetic office before him, Jeremiah will be stretched more than he can yet imagine, So he must be prepared. This is also a word about the life of discipleship, about the process of refinement and growth in grace, and about trust in God in spite of difficult circumstances.”

As one quite minor illustration of all this, at times I get some believer complaining about things like: “Oh, you write too many articles” or “You post too many things” or “You send out too many emails”. Yikes. The first thing I feel like telling these folks is, “There is such a thing as a delete button you know if it is all too much for you!”

Then I feel like saying, “Hey, no one is holding a gun to your head here”. And the third thing I always feel like reminding them of is Jer 12:5. Of course I never say these things, but wow, if a few lousy emails or articles wear you out, then what in the world are you going to do when things really start to hot up?

Yes I write a lot of articles, but that is because there is a lot to write about. Sure, no one need read anything I write if they don’t want to. But the truth is, there is a war going on, and when important things are occurring, we need to be aware of them, and we need to be involved. But some wussy believers get exhausted by a few items in their inbox, or a few posts on a social media site.

We should enjoy and use these things while we can – we may well not have such freedoms for all that long. Not everyone is called to use these tools we now have, but we should not take them for granted. Clampdowns on the Internet, on email, on social media sites may all well occur in the not too distant future. Either use them now for Christ and the Kingdom, or be ready to lose it all one day.

Sometimes I just have to scratch my head and think, ‘Wow, the world is heading down the tubes fast. Freedoms are being lost, babies are being killed, marriage and family is being hammered, nations are collapsing, Christ’s name is being dragged in the mud, millions are perishing and heading to a lost eternity, and all some believers can do is whine about getting too many emails. Go figure.’

If you can’t run with the men on foot, or a few emails a day, what are you going to do when things really get tough? Sure it takes time to read emails, or articles, or become informed about the issues that really matter, or to write letters to the editor, or contact MPs, etc. And yes, that will take time away from playing Facebook games, watching Top Gear, and doing Sudoku puzzles.

But it ultimately comes down to priorities. What is really important? Are we aware that there is a spiritual battle taking place all around us, and God is looking to raise up an army of warriors to fight the good fight? Or is it all just too much for us, and so we go back to our little selfish, self-absorbed lifestyle?

I guess I must be getting old. I know I won’t be around much longer. And I know I have wasted so many years in trivial pursuits and things that do not mean a hill of beans. I am tired of playing games and wasting time. I want my life to count for something.

And there is a lot to be done. To get the job done will take real men, not wusses. The stakes are too great, the price is too high, and the opposition is too fierce for anything less. We need those who can run with the horses. As A W Tozer put it:

“Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.”

[1477 words]

11 Responses to Let’s Show Some Backbone Here

  • Wow Bill, love it! We’re always telling our children not to get too comfortable. The world is changing and they may be called to martyrdom. I know people find that a shocking thing to tell children but it’s only shocking if it were not true. Keep tellin’ it like it is Bill.
    Anna von Marburg

  • Awesome piece Bill. Yeah if only everyone did their little bit!
    Karina van Vliet

  • I thought along similar lines when I watched all the old women with men’s hair cuts crying because they couldn’t be bishops in the Gen Synod great vote for women bishops. Did Christ go around wearing a pointed hat and wanting a secure career path? If only some of those women had shown a bit of strength of character. Being a bishop isn’t everything – it’s walking in the way of Christ, doing good and talking the gospel story. I know of excellent woman priests, I know of appalling male priests who are pederasts. What is essential is a high calibre of person, male or female – with a bit more guts that I saw exhibited by the would-be female bishops.
    Rachel Smith, UK

  • That’s a funny line at the end of your first paragraph. It reminds of Hildegard of Bingen, who cried out the exact same thing (except she was pointing most specifically at male clergy). It’s why she moved her convent away from the cathedral and into its own space (in Bingen) where there were no priests or monks.

    And Teresa of Avila. She made the same complaint.

    So, you’re in good company.

    Julia Marks

  • I love it Bill, that you are not one of those Namby Pamby Christian Wusses. You are a Man after my own Heart, straight as a die calling a spade a spade instead of a modified shovel.

    Even in my own Church many think I’m a nutter because I am straight forward and don’t mince words. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I get given very little opportunity to speak in Sacrament Meetings because they will hear what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. When it comes to Gospel Principles and teachings I will not take a backward step and I am glad to see Bill that you will not take a backward step on your beliefs.

    Too many Churches and their members are taking retrograde steps, watering down Scriptural Truths and accepting, even embracing the philosophies of Men instead of taking the scriptural meanings as being literal to ourselves where we know them not to be symbolic. The Scriptures were written for us in our day as God foresaw all the events of our days and caused that the scriptures be written as a voice of warning to us in our day and dispensation.

    This is the day for Men to prepare to meet God as the scripture so states. This is the work of Christ to bring about the immortality and Eternal Life (God’s Life or Salvation) for Mankind. But only unto those who are willing to receive it and work towards that end.

    Keep up the good work Bill keep pounding the truth and just maybe some will get it through their thick skulls what you are trying to achieve and get a bit of backbone for themselves because I am sure they are not going to get them given to them as a Christmas (Celebration of Christ) as a gift.

    Leigh Stebbins

  • Hi Bill, four of us men met this morning as part of or normal bi-weekly men’s get-together. We emerged some three hours later, having engaged on a number of confrontational issues including, but certainly not limited to, abortion. So please be encouraged that there is a small but solid band of men in Alice Springs who will fight alongside you for the cause of Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom!

    Steve Swartz

  • I’ve noticed that The Wussification of men is at epidemic levels. Women are crying out for men also, but church folk are frightened by the slightest hint of testosterone. And it’s not about men raising their voices it can be just a ever so slight implication that maybe we as a church should try and do something rather than mere talk.
    Ops I’ve done it again, my aggressive talk has offended someone I’m sure.
    Daniel Kempton

  • My experience in the evangelical church is that we are facing two challenges:

    1. Engaging in cultural apologetics, like you do Bill, is not encouraged by many in leadership;

    2. We are slack in encouraging the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in our midst in their ministry ‘to equip the saints for the work of ministry’ (Eph. 4:11-14).

    Many of these gifts in the church do the job themselves but are backward in the equipping others for their ministry.

    Spencer Gear

  • Yes, we need more men of valour. Men who are willing to take up the role of church leaders and speak out against sin and compromise, adhere to sound doctrine and clear scriptural teaching and do so boldly. And women, too, encouraging their households. We all have our biblical roles to play so let’s do so with courage and in obedience to scripture.

    Mick Koster

  • I just looked up the word “effeminate” in the dictionary. It means “for a man to show attributes usually considered to belong to the female sex”.
    I pray that cowardice, indecision and moral weakness would not be generally attributed to the female sex, -though, of course women are also capable of these things and though we are considered the “weaker vessel” when it comes to spousal prayer, but I believe this description in Peter’s letter was meant to bring out the protectiveness in a man, rather than arouse disgust as it does in the description of weakness in your article.
    As someone else has already mentioned, history is full of courageous women who took charge on their own for the sake of the women in their charge when full godliness of the men around them failed them.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • I may be very wrong but for the first time I sense a tone of apology in this article Bill. Do not apologise for doing God’s work. Keep fighting the fight, keeping the faith and one day you will win the race and receive many stars to adorne your crown!

    Luke Belik

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