What Should Be the Motive for Activism?
In the November Forerunner, we cited examples of news media bias against the pro-life movement, and promised a sequel that would discuss how to use that information to improve the odds of better treatment. The practices should be obvious: letters to the editor, visits to the newsroom and circulation of examples of such bias among other pro-life activists. What is crucial to any action of this kind, however, is not the action itself, but the motive of the heart within the activist.
Now to such a statement it is easy to imagine a lot of “amens” in response. But what exactly should the motive be? Is it to see abortion ended? A Christian journalist at Time magazine, a few years ago, discussed in print the problems of anti-Christian media bias. The examples he cited were interesting and relevant, but even more so were the corresponding problems he pointed out within the household of God itself.
What the Time correspondent pointed out was the way Christians – ministers especially – treat journalists: they view them as means of furthering our own interests and ministries. When journalists don’t print what is expected, the Church is reduced into merely another special-interest group that demands to be heard, and treated “fairly.”
I doubt that this article is revolutionary in doctrine to anyone. The solution, identified below, is something we should not only be able to agree on, but predict in advance. But since I, for one, have never seen it in print, please indulge me with my soapbox. We seem to be able to love prostitutes and beggars, but have a hard time with those who intimidate us in a more threatening manner.
Jesus Christ was never treated “fairly.” Indeed, he even promised that those who obeyed him would be lied about and persecuted. To show us how to endure, He was our forerunner, and always managed to turn persecution in something that bore good fruit.
If nothing else, persecution will always bear fruits of the Holy Spirit within willing hearts of believers. But God also would like to turn media bias into something good: namely, the conversion of not only those who are throwing the stones today, but those who are holding the coats as well. No matter to what degree they oppose the Lordship of Christ, God is able to turn whatever unbelievers intend for evil into good. In fact, that’s the whole idea.
The feminist radicals of the 60s and 70s understood this well, or at least they managed to somehow turn violent opposition into support. If you’re over 30, you may remember fanatical drives to ban the bra, and beautiful women chopping their hair off in protest of what they perceived as sexism. You will also remember that they were the laughing stock of the nation – for a while. People, news writers and editors for instance, began to realize that these radicals were willing to suffer for what they sincerely believed in. This genuine faith turned the tide of public opinion.
Okay, I know. Much of the reason for this change was the fact that society was adrift from its biblical moorings, and the feminist victories such as Roe vs. Wade were simple matters of default. But remember, they moved in bitterness and selfishness. How much greater our weapons are if we move in love, with nothing to gain, but much to lose.
But one can only do this when one knows exactly what his or her mission is God isn’t expecting us to shoulder the responsibility for ending abortion any more than he held Jeremiah responsible for the refusal of his countrymen to turn from their wickedness. In Jeremiah’s situation God even told him, to paraphrase part of the first chapter, that his efforts would meet with no success.
Therefore, our faithfulness in doing what God puts on our hearts is determined by motive, not energy expended or activities pursued. And, since good intentions aren’t worth much, does God have any requirements that determine motive? Does God even look at them as requirements?
Yes, He does. And the fulfillment of those requirements is summed up for us in Galatians 5:14, “for the whole Law is fulfilled in on word, in the statement, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
It is very liberating to understand that, no matter how vulnerable we might make ourselves in picket lines or letters to the editor – or anything in which we do for the Lord – that we are free to love people through it the whole time. This isn’t to say we never offend them or directly, even harshly, confront them.
Love can take on a whole spectrum of emotions, but it always recognizes the dignity of everyone, whether it be an unborn child, a homosexual who spits on Christians and grotesquely mocks God, or even the reporter who portrays the hater of God as the basically good hero, and the Christian as the imposing, narrow-minded villain.
In Jesus’ time the Sanhedrin had dispatched scribes throughout parts of Israel to be on the lookout for Jesus and the watch for anything that might be construed as an offense to the law. Jesus explains how He dealt with it in what is known today as the greatest sermon ever given: the Sermon on the Mount.
Here the persecutors were not atheists, agnostics or neo-pagans, as they are today. But in both situations they are people who assume they are doing everyone a big favor by opposing what they hate. One can find a lot to dislike about someone like this, until one realizes that the only difference between the persecutor and the persecutee is the grace of God. And if the Christian does not respond in love, he or she makes the statement that there really is no difference. Both are just seeking their own will.
The Christian who faced pagan Rome however, did suffer persecution much the same that we face, only ours is on a much smaller scale. It was not their great evangelism, logical teachings or wonderful press coverage that brought them results. It was sincere faith, genuine agapé, and complete dependence on God that ushered in a revival that has yet to be equaled.
There is nothing limp-wristed about this love. Jesus often responded harshly to the Pharisees. It’s often said they are the only people he rebuked; but he also rebuked Peter. Jesus never came against the dignity that every man had, by virtue of being in the image of the Father, whether they were Mary, a prostitute; Levi, a tax-collector; Peter; as spiritual studmuffin; Nicodemus, a Pharisee; or Judas.
While the feminists were preparing to march in the streets, John Lennon told us to “Imagine” a world of peace, harmony and love. That is something everyone longs for and, of course, is only attainable by giving up a life of sin. Faith, however, hardly comes easily to the breast of Natural Man. Even Lennon’s song calls for a world without religion (re: belief in a God of moral absolutes).
History, however, teaches that when Christians, by the grace of God, love their neighbors as themselves, revival is the result. The degree to which they are persecuted is the degree to which the Spirit of God is able to rest on them – and shine forth from them too.