A fundamental point of consideration when living in a post-Christian society is whether complicity in a lie, unloving confirmation, and even encouragement by approval (Romans 1:32) of a confused, lost person in his/her delusion is warranted simply to keep your job and a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. What’s culturally demanded is referring to a man as a woman, using “preferred pronouns.” But this is denying reality, and so denying God as Creator who “made them male and female” (Genesis 5:2), and His Son, by whom, and for whom, all things were created (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16).
Are you willing to call evil good and good evil? Would you willingly replace darkness for light, and light for darkness for your career? Would you put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter, although God pronounces a “woe” on those who do so (Isaiah 5:20)?
Would you rationalize such caving to the culture’s blasphemy laws by trying to make your vice (your willingness to ongoingly propagate a lie) a virtue by attempting to make the case that you are engaging in such compromise out of love for your family? Would you engage in this line of reasoning that keeping your job at any cost is paramount to your role as provider, therefore it’s necessary to accommodate the lie. Or perhaps something like, “Well, aren’t we told to submit to authority and our earthly masters”?
Killed for Christ
If history’s Christian Martyrs understood these lines of reasoning, they would not have had to be hauled off, taken away from their families, put in prison, tortured, and killed for Christ. Often, all that the early Christians had to say to avoid horrific persecution was the little phrase, “Kaiser Kurios” (Caesar is Lord) instead of “Christos Kurios” (Christ is Lord). For not doing so, they faced savage and unspeakably cruel consequences.
Praise of Men vs. Faithfulness to Christ
Given the state of the American Church today, it’s not hard to imagine the excuses, rationalizations, and obfuscations that would ensue to compromise and save our skins if this choice confronted us today.
It’s stated in answer to question #145 of the Larger Westminster Catechism:
“What are the sins (note the plural, “sins”) forbidden in the 9th Commandment?”
“Wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause…calling evil good, and good evil… rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous…concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves or complaint to others…”
Countless Christians are folding on this issue. For those who don’t want to bow to the lying, chaotic Spirit of the Age, it would be a good idea to plan out your response ahead of time – before your company’s HR department comes specifically for you. The praise and acceptance of men is nothing compared to hearing Christ say on the last day, “Well done good and faithful servant,” for choosing the eternal over the temporal (fleeting comforts and a soon-to-pass undisturbed easy middle-class lifestyle).
This is an immensely important issue to raise with any prospective candidate for the office of Pastor or Elder. Both cowardice and courage are contagious, especially in leadership. When we think of a Pastor or Elder being disqualified from serving in those roles because of sin, we usually think of the gross sins of adultery, fornication, misappropriation of funds, or straying into heretical preaching.
The Consideration of Cowardice
It’s a testimony to the unprecedented peace, protection, and religious freedom we’ve enjoyed for almost 250 years in this country, that we have been largely spared from any significantly costly persecution. Therefore, the consideration of cowardice in the face of persecution as it relates to church leaders has been less of an issue. There hasn’t been widespread testing in this area.
However, in the words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-changin’,” and rapidly at that. Once again, as in other epochs of Church history, courage, steadfastness, and boldness in the face of danger are now qualities church leaders must possess and display. No shortage of scripture establishs cowardice as a horrid sin, most specifically Revelation 21:8:
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Interestingly, and meaningfully, of the eight characteristics delineated in this verse of those who will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, the cowardly, δειλος (fearful, timid) head the list. This is a cowardice that puts self and safety ahead of Christ.
Here the cowardly are set in opposition to the faithful and courageous overcomers who inherit the Kingdom – those who “did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11b) They have irrevocably cowered in the face of persecution and thus join the reprobates in the lake of fire.
“When tribulation or persecution arises”
So betraying/denying Christ due to cowardice is here to align oneself with the enemies of God, and so also with their dreadful eternal fate. They are the ones who “when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately fall away.” (MT. 13:21b) They have denied the faith under the pressure of persecution and by saving their lives in this world, end up finally losing it. (Mk 8:35) So like any other sin, when this sin is revealed in the leadership of the Church it should be dealt with, and it’s certainly grounds for disqualification.
This goes both for corporate businessmen who bow down to workplace demands to post/use preferred pronouns and also goes for military men who have to salute a man as “Aye, Aye Ma’am” or a woman as “Aye Aye Sir,” or in the medical field, pretending that men can become pregnant.
Some anticipated objections might be: “What? So the Elder, or even the layman, has to lose his job or be court-martialed? What about his family? What about 1st Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever?”
Matthew 5:10 reminds us that trusting God to provide for you and your family as you are “persecuted for righteousness sake” is a fundamental Christian principle. Additionally, one of the necessary functions of the Church in the times we live is to step in and help until you’re able to find other employment.
Forerunners in the Faith
Our forerunners in the faith are instructive in this area: John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, spent 12 years in jail with a blind daughter, Mary, whom he loved and was unable to support (which broke his heart). All he had to do to be released was say that he wouldn’t preach the gospel as an unauthorized, unlicensed, preacher. He refused and stood steadfast despite being in jail and not being able to support his family.
Hebrews 11 reminds us of other forerunners in the faith going back even further who “were stoned, were sawn in two, were killed with the sword… went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrew 11:37-38)
We need to re-think what sins, those that we never had to give thought to before, we are willing to tolerate in our leaders. Perhaps we do so because we are just as guilty of cowardice and unwillingness to suffer loss for Christ as many of them are.
We must earnestly pray for courage for both ourselves and our leaders. Then we must act – with boldness and bravery, knowing that our great God rewards such virtues.