Our family folklore includes many tales of people taking a stand, sometimes for righteousness. My husband Mark’s father was a Hungarian revolutionary fighter in World War II. My father was a speaker for the United Automobile Workers union (read: incited strikes and riots). My ancestor George Wishart was burned at the stake in Scotland for preaching against the Catholic church. There is no shortage of family stories inspiring Mark and me to take a stand. Consequently, we have racked up instances as a couple where we dug in our heels and braved the ugly storm.
But did you know that not every fight needs to be fought? Mark’s father used to tell him there is no shame in running away in order to fight another day. Even Christ himself escaped the grasp of the crowd in John 10. Knowing when to take a stand and when to fight another day has been a lesson long in the learning. Where I lack is in the art of standing down. I am very clumsy in this area, but here is what I am finding.
Don’t Take The Bait
We’re finishing up the Reformation in our history curriculum at home this year. While reading a story about Martin Luther, Thunderstorm in Church by Louise Vernon, a paragraph jumped out at me. Martin Luther advised those who were trying hard to live as Christians to not “always wrestle with the devil. Don’t argue with him. He has had five thousand years of experience. He has tried out all his tricks on Adam, Abraham, and David, and he knows your weak spots.”
It turns out that social media provides a perfect mat upon which I have tried my best wrestling moves on the devil. Long story short, I am no longer on Facebook. The silver lining to giving up an opportunity to be an encouragement to a huge audience is that I have found myself craving real life interactions again. I’ve stopped cringing when I run into people that I know have different beliefs from my own. When we talk, they don’t throw random political points into conversation, and I don’t waste time formulating snarky responses. Socializing hasn’t been this good since 2003 (pre-Facebook)!
Bridge The Gap
At the risk of delivering a second review of Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies to the TOR audience, I found sound counsel from his book regarding navigating relationships with those on the other side of the aisle in times such as ours. Dreher stressed the importance of believers maintaining close contact with secular dissidents while living under Communist rule before the Iron Curtain collapsed. Dreher quoted lawyer Jân Čarnogurský as he recounted, “There weren’t many people in general who wanted to stand up to communism. You had to take allies where you could. The secret police tried to keep secular liberals and Christians apart, and they wanted to keep Czechs and Slovaks divided.” I have been noticing with friends lately that the liberal left is seemingly splitting in two: one side supports the unconstitutional and overreaching progressive administrative state, while the other favors medical freedom. Those in favor of medical freedom find themselves attending resistance meetings with new faces (my Christian friends) and gathering allies where they can.
This past year furnished ample opportunities for our family to interact with our neighbors (something I have more mental space for after leaving Facebook). Most of the time we are pleasantly surprised by how much we have in common. It has been fascinating to witness one family in particular develop a relationship with God, reconfigure their political standing, and make changes in their lives to strengthen their family. I rather prefer this rare outcome, but not all interactions have been so propitious. Another family took it upon themselves to teach our children what they felt was missing from their Christian homeschooling. The flags went up. Alarms sounded. We poised to retreat to our “compound,” safe from all invasions.
On the heels of this alarming situation with our neighbor, I bristled at another part in Dreher’s book about a Slovakian man who reached out to liberals, “not because he had to, but because he wanted to.” The Slovakian man said, “It is important for me to have my home and to be aware that I know where I stand. I know my values.” Yet, there comes “a moment in their lives when these people wanted to talk about something deeper. They realized they were seeking, and needed to have somebody to talk to. We Christians have to be present in the world, and be ready when this happens.” This is the place for personal conviction.
Speak Softly and Carry a Big God
Sometimes we can just be thick headed. Fortunately, ours is a patient God. Caught in the act of sweeping His first prompting under the rug, I felt His nudge again—this time with the story of Esther. I chanced upon a study of Esther from the Exodus Church in North Carolina during a late night internet rabbit trail. It did not provide the usual lesson of using our positions of influence or leadership to serve God, but rather a warning that we may miss an opportunity to participate in the Kingdom as we watch revelation times unfold. Mordecai told Esther that God will deliver His people according to His promise, and that no human strength or effort can bring about salvation. God’s will does not depend on me. If I do nothing to reach this least favorite neighbor of mine, God will still rescue His people, but I will lose the chance to be a part of the Great Deliverance.
So these are my marching orders, but what does participating in the Great Deliverance with my neighbors actually look like? According to Tim Echols’ book, Real Citizenship, it looks like sharing Biblical truths without citing chapter and verse. Sure, there are times for testimony and Gospel, but we should consider our audience. If God gives us opportunity to work alongside or visit with people, we need to jump on it lest He find it necessary to recruit someone else. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Our neighbors watch us as we work, serve in the community, raise our children, navigate hardships. This all should point them to God, and if it doesn’t, we should be moved to seek correction and forgiveness.
Whether we sense the Holy Spirit’s direction to take a stand for God and righteousness, or to avoid the enemy’s snare by sitting this one out, we can always remain vigilant for the seekers.
—A former media relations consultant for higher education, and consignment store owner, Amy now homeschools her three children when they don’t escape to work with her husband Mark.