You’re in the spotlight and you’ve just been asked about a controversial issue. What do you do?
Martin Luther, the Christian reformer who challenged the sale of indulgences five hundred years ago, is often credited with this stirring quotation:
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him.”
Okay, well maybe Martin Luther didn’t actually say that. Nor did Abraham Lincoln say, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” But just because a quotation is mis-attributed doesn’t mean it’s an inaccurate summary of what the purported author believed. As a matter of fact, this passage not only closely mirrors something Luther wrote in a personal letter, but it’s consistent with the life he lived.
More importantly, this quote is true. The temptation is strong to faithfully proclaim every aspect of God’s Word except the one most controversial in our time.
We saw that recently when well-known pastor Carl Lentz appeared on ABC’s “The View.” Lentz spoke boldly and in no uncertain moral terms about the issue of racism. As well he should. Christians should condemn racism whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.
But when asked directly about abortion, and whether or not he considers it a sin, Lentz couldn’t give a straight answer. Instead, he spoke of having a “conversation,” of finding out a person’s “story,” where they’re from and what they believe. “I mean, God’s the judge,” he concluded. “People have to live by their own convictions.”
Predictably, the progressive studio audience heard this as an affirmation of the so-called “right to choose,” and rewarded Lentz with thunderous applause.
This upset a lot of pro-lifers who felt that this highly visible pastor had squandered a chance to speak up for the unborn. Lentz quickly took to social media to defend his word, but the damage was done. A watching world had heard a famous Christian pastor buckle on a crucial issue of our time, right after taking principled stands on other issues—issues, and this is key, that wouldn’t cost him anything with the ladies or audience of “The View.”
Now Lentz is not unique. He’s just the latest victim of what my friend Michael Miller calls “cocktail party pressure,” the urge to tone down or disavow Christian beliefs found to be distasteful in our culture. Typically, these are the so-called “culture war” issues like life, marriage, or religious liberty.
Watching Lentz on “The View” reminded me of the doctor-assisted suicide vote in Colorado last year. I was heartbroken when pastors of Colorado churches told me they didn’t want to take up the issue from the pulpit, because it was “too political.” But many of these same pastors have no hesitation whatsoever when addressing issues that are also so-called political ones, like racism or refugees.
Contrast this with someone like Ryan Anderson from the Heritage Foundation. Although not a pastor, Ryan is among the most articulate defenders of natural marriage even in the face of blistering ridicule. I’ll never forget the image of him on Piers Morgan’s show, banned from the stage, seated in a hostile crowd, graciously explaining the Christian view while the liberal hosts hurled abuse at him.
Folks, it’s so very easy to be courageous on issues where our Christian convictions are in agreement with talk show hosts and the larger cultural ethos. But we’re not just called to proclaim the truth when it’s easy. Faithfulness means standing up for what’s right precisely and especially when it’s unpopular—even when it will cost us, socially, financially, maybe even mortally.
And it’s all of us, including those of us not on television, who face this kind of pressure ourselves—the pressure to tone down or abandon what we believe. That’s why it’s crucial to decide ahead of time—before the talk show or the cocktail party—where we stand, and to always be ready to give an answer when we’re asked.
John Stonestreet is President of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and BreakPoint co-host.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.