Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How to Stop Losing Ground

"You can be so right, you're wrong."  That is the saying my mother passed along to me from her mother, right alongside her other favorite aphorism, "There's a wrong way to do the right thing." 

I can't remember a time before I knew that the ends didn't justify the means.  Perhaps that's why I find it so difficult to watch the pro-life advocates angrily protesting in the parking lot of the downtown abortion clinic or why I've always ducked my blazing cheeks in shame to avoid the man yelling hell and damnation on the street corner.

In those moments when I've seen other Christians using the moral truth as a weapon, I have almost been ashamed to call myself Christian, knowing that once I slap on that label, the image that will immediately spring to a person's mind won't necessarily be a loving, devoted follower of Jesus Christ but, rather, a divisive person bent on judging those around her. 

And yet, I still wear my scarlet "C," knowing within my soul that Scripture gives a clear sense of moral right and wrong, first presented in The Ten Commandments and then later clarified by Jesus, Himself, in Matthew 5-7, "The Sermon on the Mount."  What's more, the Old and New Testaments both provide list after list of what actions our God considers "righteous" and "unrighteous."

Because of my study of the Word, much of what the world wishes to paint fifty shades of grey is imprinted on my mind in clear black and white. The truth is God's Word is there for any who will read and study it.

And yet, what am I to do with this truth?

Do I lead an attack on my fellow man, my two-edged Biblical sword waving in front of me? Do I use the truth to keep pushing until those around me bend or break, acknowledging their error?

With my three children watching my every move, this is the struggle I face.  How am I to be a Christian in this world?  in my family?  How am I to be a witness for the truth without alienating those I wish to reach? without destroying my opportunity for a witness?

In the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks to Christians, telling them the "how" of Spiritual warfare.  He explains, in particular, how Christians can win the war by wearing the "full armor of God":

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:10-17).

A few years ago on this blog, we examined this armor of God and learned "how" to use both our numerous defensive weapons and single offensive weapon in the battle with the enemy.  And yet, as I read the passage again this week, I couldn't help but notice the emphasis on the "what" we should be doing, too.....standing.  Four times in this passage, Paul tells Christians just to stand.

We Christians are called to put on the armor of truth, righteousness, confidence in our stand, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.  But then, we're not told to advance courageously into battle.  We're not told to start charging at our enemy.  

Instead, we're simply told to hold the line, to stand and not lose ground.

This is where I believe we, as Christians, have been slowly going wrong for several generations.  Instead of standing and letting our God fight the battle, we have, instead, chosen to advance forward and attack various sins in this world...and in that advance, we have ultimately lost ground, the one thing we were told not to do.

More and more, I am convinced the secret of fighting the battle for moral uprightness in our world is as simple as standing firm.  It is as simple as the Shema, often the first verse of Scripture a young Jewish child would learn:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deut. 6:4-9).

How do Christians stand firm?  How do we not lose ground?  How do we fight against sin?

It starts in our home.  It starts with our own lives.  It starts with our children.

Instead of advancing on the world with our words of truth, we must demonstrate that truth in our own lives.  We must live morally upright lives, ourselves, ones singularly devoted to God, and ones where we pass our morals and love of God along to our children.

When we wake up and when we go to sleep...when we enter into our house...when we sit around the table...when we're driving down the highway---the Word of the Lord must be on our lips, in our actions, and in our hearts. No matter how morally depraved the world is at this moment, our focus must be to live out the moral truth in our actions and to communicate the moral truth to our children by word and deed.

If we live in righteousness and communicate that righteousness effectively to our children, then they will do the same with their children and their children's children.  And yet, this is where Christians have failed.  Slowly, more and more Christians in each generation have not demonstrated righteousness in their own lives, have not made it a priority to communicate those moral standards to their children...and so, those children did not make it a priority to both follow or communicate those standards to their children, and so on down through the ages. 

When we Christians grow lax in our living according to the truth of God's Word....when we Christians become lazy in teaching that truth to our children--that's when the morality of the world around us crumbles. 

As Scripture says, "You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you.... It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded us" (Deut. 6:17, 25). 

May it be righteousness for us...and for our children.

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