Holy Boldness: The Evangelical Protest
It is my judgment that America generally, and the church in particular, has lost its nerve. I am wont to say “we need to put the protest back in Protestantism.” By this I mean not against Catholicism as in Martin Luther's day, but on behalf of the holistic Gospel. God calls us to act more boldly. It is a kind of holy boldness.
At Christmastime, we need look no further than that of Mary. When told of her impending, supernatural pregnancy by the angel, Mary responded “let it be to me as you say.” She embraced her destiny in faith, believing that God would do as he said and accepting that he had chosen her for a mission. Unlike others, she did not dither as did Moses when he was summoned, nor did she reject the calling as did Jonah. In sum, because she had surrendered her life to God, she was humbly able to accept her role. It was a role that Simeon later prophesied would cause her heart to be pierced as with a sword.
The Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55) also reveals that Mary was humble. To both the angel and to Elizabeth she refers to herself as a “handmaid.” It would be best translated today as “servant” or “slave.” It wasn’t false modesty, as she would never come to fame, wealth, or a life of ease in her lifetime. But she is venerated to this day for her willingness to be obedient and accept her role in the Christmas story. Scholars say that the only miracle she ever asked of Jesus was that he keep a wedding party from the dishonor or embarrassment of not having wine for their guests.
We are all called in some way to serve God in this world, and to do so with no expectation of any life of comfort. And the choices we make may pierce our hearts in such a way that the wound stays for years. The pain may be in our very own souls. But we act anyway to do the right thing, as best we know it. I know that pain, and yet I also experience the presence and direction of the Lord.
So, if you’ve never changed your mind about something, to the point where you are willing to speak up, step out, and protest… pinch yourself, you may be dead. This idea echoes the last line in the documentary film “Countdown To Zero,” released in 2010 by Participant Films, and in that case with the danger being nuclear weaponry, the double entendre is obvious. But all of us die a bit internally when we know we should take a stand, but do not. When we simply must speak out, but refuse. There’s always a cost to be paid, now or later, if we simply shuck our duty.
Join me in a commitment to a bold re-assertion of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ stands for and what the Church so desperately needs from evangelicals -- an ongoing commitment to renewal and reformation, to self-examination, reflection, and a willingness to be corrected and to change whenever necessary.
This is not, as the Evangelical Manifesto puts it, “being advocates of today’s nihilistic ‘change for change’s sake,’ [but instead] being Evangelical is to recognize the need for a form behind all re-form, and therefore of the primacy of the authority of Jesus and the Word.
The evangelicals [new and old] thus part company with reactionaries by being both reforming and innovative but they also part company with modern progressives by challenging the ideal of the newer-as-truer and the latest-is-greatest. For evangelicals, it is paradoxical though true that the surest way forward is always first to go back.”
The words of the Charles Wesley (1762) in the hymn “A Charge to Keep I Have” are still timely and beautiful to hear and a fitting benediction:
A charge to keep I have, A God to glorify, A never dying soul to save, And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age, My calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage, To do my Master’s will;
Arm me with jealous care, As in thy sight to live; And, oh, Thy servant, Lord prepare A Strict account to give;
Help me to watch and pray, And on thyself rely, And let me ne’er my trust betray, But press to realms on high.
First published by Odyssey Networks.