Some years ago the late Prison Fellowship Chairman Chuck Colson delivered an address on religious liberty at the University of Chicago. In the audience were people of many faiths who were attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The address began with these words: “I speak as one transformed by Jesus Christ, the living God. He is the way, the truth and the life. He has lived in me for 20 years. His presence is the sole explanation for whatever is praiseworthy in my work. That is more than a statement about myself. It is a claim to truth. It is a claim that may contradict your own.”
What makes these words stand out as noteworthy is the fact that one seldom hears such claims made outside of a church building. In the “market place of ideas” you never experience such bold talk. Tolerance of other beliefs has made such exclusive claims “unacceptable.” And yet that was how the church began, increased and reshaped the Western world. When we read the book of acts such bold claims to truth are so commonplace we can easily become immune to them, until it is realized that no one in any of those audiences already believed them. It is obvious that Christianity’s earliest approach was to challenge the belief systems of the world in their own back yards (what other yards were there?). It was considered a compromise of principle to remain quiet. In the midst of all his warnings about present and future persecution, Peter wrote to his Christian friends that they should “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15). Such bold speech aroused opposition and invited persecution. But it also worked. May I suggest that it will still work. Christ’s followers need not be belligerent or judgmental, but they do need to be faithful. And faithfulness implies being vocal about what we believe.
It is interesting that it is Peter speaking out about the boldness necessary for our witness. It was Peter, the night Jesus was arrested, who first succumbed to the pressures of those who opposed Jesus as he caved in and cursed and swore that he didn’t even know the man Jesus. But God was merciful in giving him other opportunities as he grew in the Lord. And God will do the same for us, regardless of our past timidity and fear. Just remember the promise of Jesus: “He who confesses me before men, him will I also confess before my Father in Heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father in heaven.” Speak up! It’s the Christian thing to do.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship