Should believers be engaged in aggressive Christianity? That is, should they be determined, fearless, strong in the Lord, and empowered from on high with Holy Ghost boldness? Should they be boldly proclaiming the gospel and taking a strong stand for righteousness in this sin-soaked world?
To my humble way of thinking, the answer to all three of these questions is an unambiguous ‘yes’. Is that not what Christianity is meant to be about? Is that not exactly what we find recorded in the Gospels and Acts? This is normal Christianity.
Yet what do we find today in Western Christianity? It seems we have the exact opposite. We have craven and cowardly Christians who fear men but do not fear God. They will never rock the boat and they will never speak out. They are almost ashamed of their faith and they prefer silence to proclamation.
They practice a “gospel of nice” in which they think just smiling a lot, not arguing with anyone, and just going along with the world is the best sort of Christian witness. Not only are they utterly fearful of what others might think or say about them, but they are quite happy to attack other believers who are bold and forthright in their faith.
These folks not only seem ashamed of their own faith, but they get upset with other Christians who are not ashamed of their faith. And they especially get upset when Christians engage in the culture wars. These delicate flowers think we are being too aggressive and too belligerent.
They think we are being a bad witness because we so strongly stand up for such vital issues as the sanctity of life or the importance of marriage and family. They want us to back down and shut up, because they feel we are turning people off.
I say all this not just for theoretical reasons. I personally come across such spineless Christians all the time. The evangellyfish love to attack you as they defend their own cowardly, do-nothing lives. They are armchair critics who seem to get their jollies by criticising active believers.
As but one example of this, I spent a bit of time the other day on a social media site dealing with the complaints of one such Christian who really did not like my call to arms in the culture wars. He not only seemed a bit upset about the military terminology, but he also thought I was ‘browbeating’ people.
I do not mean to be picking on just one person here. Such remarks are very representative of many folks. I have dealt with plenty of these sorts of believers over the years, so this is just another example. But let me share how some of our conversation went.
He complained that not only are culture warriors putting people off, but they are making Christians uneasy as well. Among other things, this person insisted that most believers do not have the time or skills, etc., to be involved in the culture wars.
I began by saying that I was not sure how urging believers to be concerned about things like the slaughter of the unborn equates to “browbeating”! And I certainly was puzzled at his claim that believers do not have the time to engage in these battles.
I mean really? Christians do not have, say, three minutes a day to pray about marriage or other key issues? They do not have three minutes a day to mention to others some of their concerns about these matters? Really? I pointed out that anyone who has read my articles will see I nowhere insist that all believers must be fulltime lobbyists working in Canberra or Washington!
But I reminded this fellow that every single believer is commanded by Jesus Christ to be salt and light. I said I was just not sure how a “lack of time or energy or skill” in any way negates that clear command. I mentioned that every single Christian on the planet can and should stand up for what is right and speak out against that which is evil.
I said that of course we all can make a difference in all sorts of ways, with praying being a great start. We all can do that at least, but many others will be called to do more, all depending on our various callings and giftings. But we all have a role to play.
This person went on to say that he was worried about me being ‘forceful’ in urging Christian participation in the great battles of our day. I replied by saying that we all should forcefully advocate for Christians to be all they are called to be in Christ.
If strong words of advocacy cause the believer to take offence, then we would have to ignore the prophets, Jesus and the disciples for starters! The Bible of course is filled with such strong and urgent admonitions, warnings and words of exhortation.
This fellow was also very sensitive about the terminology I had used. He took offence at me using terms like “war” and “warfare”. So I asked him if Jesus, Paul, Peter and others who used words like “war” and “fight” and “battle” and “warfare” (in a moral and spiritual sense) were ‘unnecessarily putting people off’?
He replied by saying that the use of such terminology comes across as “aggressive” and said that coming this way will not work with people, so we should ease up on such “aggression”. I responded by saying that the culture wars are of course aggressive.
Those who are intent on destroying marriage and family, snuffing out the lives of the unborn, and shutting down the Christian faith – to name just a few of the major battles – are indeed aggressive, and it is high time that believers got off their easy chairs and their world of comfort and ease, and started engaging in these very real battles which are resulting in very real casualties.
Instead of being offended by mere words, more believers need to be offended by the lackadaisical and lukewarm state of the church where most believers care nothing about these crucial battles. That is what should offend us, not the use of military imagery which is found all throughout the New Testament!
He still insisted that we should not be “resorting to aggression” and using such “hostile language”. By this point it was becoming clear that I was not getting very far with this fellow, so I tried one last time to point out the real issues at stake here.
I said that I had already answered these concerns: those who are so easily offended and need trigger warnings would have been shocked at what the prophets, Jesus and the disciples said and did. Sorry, I will stick with them and their style, and not obsess over offending people, seeking to be “nice,” or trying to get along with everyone.
I reminded him that Christianity is not a popularity contest, but it is in fact a war, as much as some may not like that word or that concept. With the world, the flesh and the devil arrayed against us, seeking to be a delicate petal just does not cut it.
I finished with the words of one tremendous warrior for Christ who could never be accused of being a wilted pansy: Catherine Booth. She – along with her husband William – was about as hard-core as you can get. They not only founded the Salvation Army, but they rocked their world with aggressive Christianity – and offended plenty of Christians along the way.
Even their motto “Blood and Fire” would get plenty of these church mice upset – then and now. But this would not deter the Booths. Indeed, she even has an important book with that very title: Aggressive Christianity. It is a collection of her fiery and impassioned sermons. Let me offer three quotes from the volume:
Oh! People say you must be very cautious. You must not push religion down people’s throats. What! Should I wait until an unconverted, godless man wants to be saved before I try to save him? Am I to let my unconverted friends and acquaintances go quietly down to damnation, and never tell them about their souls until they ask, “If you please, I want you to preach to me!” Is this anything like the spirit of early Christianity? No! Therefore we must make them look, and if they run away from you in one place, meet them in another, and let them have no peace until they submit to God. This is what Christianity ought to be doing in this land, and there are plenty of Christians around to do it. Why, we might give the world such a time of it, that they would get saved in self-defense – if we were only aggressive enough and determined that they should have no peace in their sins.
Opposition! It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know from that. When the Church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord, and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the Church that has altered, not the world.
The interests of truth demand this outspokenness. How is error to be met but by the bold proclamation of the truth? How the emissaries of Satan are palming upon mankind his lies – always at it, night and day. How are they to be silenced but by witnesses faithfully crying in their ears, ‘This is a lie, and that is a lie. This is the truth and this is the way. We know, we see, we feel – walk in it. Turn, turn, for why would you want to die?’ God wants outspoken witnesses. There are plenty of false witnesses now, as there ever were, and what does Jesus Christ want? He wants His true witnesses to come out and face them, and be a match for them – not to sneak away in holes and corners, and be ashamed of their religion, and talk about an ‘unobtrusive religion’ – unobtrusive nonsense. There is no such thing! Come out before the world.
And William of course was no pushover either. He too specialised in a bold, aggressive and confrontational Christianity which took no prisoners. He also spoke often about warfare, battles and the like. And here he is using that dreaded “F” word my critic was so worried about:
While women weep, as they do now,
While little children go hungry, as they do now,
While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now,
While there is a drunkard left,
While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,
While there remains one dark soul without the light of God,
I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end!
If I thought I could win one more soul to the Lord by walking on my head and playing the tambourine with my toes, I’d learn how!
So what sort of impact did such aggressive and confrontational preaching and Christian ministry have on the folks around them? It was all-out war. People regularly persecuted them, hated on them, and even sought to kill them. Have a look at this piece on the incredible and savage reaction the Booths and the Salvos had back then: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/09/24/they-will-hate-you/
Would that we had such powerful, bold and fearless warriors for Christ today. Of course the fellow debating with me on the social media would not approve of the Booths. “Too aggressive” he would say. “Too belligerent.” And of course the cowardly and carnal Christians of the day said the same thing about the Booths.
But it is a no-brainer to me: I will take the strong, courageous and bold soldiers for Christ any day over the spineless wonders who call themselves disciples of Christ but never say anything or do anything for Christ and the Kingdom.
And I know which ones God prefers as well.