Until recently, very few knew the story of William Wilberforce. Many were familiar with the name of this great Englishman, but his true story had long been forgotten on the pages of the history books where he was known only as a great reformer and leader in the abolition of the slave trade in England. This indeed is magnificent and is once of his greatest accomplishments, but this history books have left out his great faith in God. This faith — reconciled with participation in politics — was the greatest thing about this man. He lived in a day of moral bankruptcy, just as we do today. Any world filled with slavery is a world morally bankrupt — again, just as our world is today. The sin he saw was great, as men decided that they could buy and sell other men just because of their color. It was a tragic time.
It was during this time that he said the following about his faith and those who called themselves believers in Christianity.
â€œIn contrast, servile, base, and mercenary is the notion of Christian practice among the bulk of nominal Christians. They give no more than they dare not withhold. They abstain from nothing but what they dare not practice. When you state to them the doubtful quality of any action, and the consequent obligation to refrain from it, they reply to you in the very spirit of Shylock, â€œthey cannot find it in the bond.â€
In short, they know Christianity only as a system of restraints. It is robbed of every liberal and generous principle. It is rendered almost unfit for the social relationships of life, and only suited to the gloomy walls of a cloister, in which they would confine it. But true Christians consider themselves as not satisfying some rigorous creditor, but as discharging a debt of gratitude. Accordingly, theirs is not the stinted return of the constrained obedience, but the large and liberal measure of voluntary service.â€
What he was saying, I believe, speaks of our teenage culture within the churches. It is full of â€œnominal Christiansâ€ — Christians in name only — who â€œgive no more than they dare not withhold.â€ In other words, their bare minimum. As he says, â€œthey abstain from nothing but what they dare not practice.â€ They live on the edge, testing the boundaries, only going as far as they dare go. When you tell them that what they are doing is wrong, they respond that they see no problem, no set boundary for their actions. They see Christianity as â€œonly a system of restraintsâ€ that takes away any freedom from its followers, making it a system unfit for the real world and fit only for â€œgloomy walls of a cloisterâ€ where they would love to keep it.
Yet this is not how we as Christians are to live today, whether we are 7 or 70. We are not to live our teenage years on the edge of the boundaries we hate with so much passion, deceiving ourselves into thinking that we will return closer to Christ later on in life. True Christians do not believe they can put off â€œsatisfying some rigorous creditorâ€ but rather as â€œdischarging a debt of gratitude.â€ It is not a â€œconstrained obedienceâ€ but rather â€œlarge and liberal measure of voluntary service.â€ We do not live holy lives just because it is a rule, but rather out of a love for the savior. It is because of the cross that we lives worthy of the gospel. This gospel must be our central passion.
God has given us passions, gifts, and abilities. Each one should be centered around the cross, not around the passion. Our purpose must be bigger than our passion. God will do great things in our lives when we allow the gospel to be the center of everything we do. For some, they will be architects, artists, writers, surgeons, doctors, nurses, cosmetologists, novelists, fashion designers, politicians or whatever else God has given you a passion for. For others, it is a passion for teaching, for some even, preaching. One is no greater than the other. Being a Pastor is not greater or more spiritual than being a nurse.
We need to forget the secular/sacred division. There is no â€œcareerâ€ and then â€œchristian lifeâ€ or â€œeducationâ€ then â€œchristian life.â€ People get the idea that we are to live our lives in two separate spectrums. This is certainly not right. It was something that great men such as Francis Schaeffer understood. One of his students’ name is Nancy Pearcey, writer of this magnificently large volume â€œTotal Truthâ€ (that I assure you I have not read 100% quite yet. Here is what she had to say about this division.
â€œWe have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today.â€ (page 20)
Do you see what is going on in our minds? We have this passion that is set aside for certain days of the week, certain settings, certain times during the day. Every teenager needs to understand clearly their is not divide between the secular and the sacred. In all, our passion must be for Christ alone, no matter what we are doing in life. Our Christian lives, if we are Christians, must affect everything we do, not just some things.
I read a rather telling story that illustrates this in Total Truth.
There was a young woman who worked for a Planned Parenthood clinic. Each day she saw young girls come in, pregnant, and ready for an abortion. Each time she offered the all the possibilities. Most times the girls became impatient and even angry. These girls believed there were no other options. The young woman then had to fall back on protocol: â€œThis is my job,â€ she said. â€œI have to do it.â€
This young woman was a practicing Christian, and she believed she was there showing compassion to those who were considering abortion. Everyone else in that clinic were also regular church members, since the clinic was located in the heart of the Bible belt. On breaks they discussed things like Bible study groups and Sunday school programs.
â€œI may have started out picking up bits and pieces of a secular worldview to sprinkle on top of my Christian belief’s,â€ said the young woman. â€œBut after I graduated [from college] and worked for Planned Parenthood, the patter was reversed: My Christianity was redueced to a thin veneer over the core of a secular worldview. It was almost like having a split personallity.â€
I don’t know about you, but that scares me. And I believe there are many of you who feel that split personality. Something has gone so wrong. You just have a thin layer of Christianity on on the outside. That’s not how things are supposed to be. And for all who do not feel that, beware– this world teaches it, and we see it every day. Our lives must be ruled completely by Christ alone. There is not a division in our mind. The gospel must influence everything that we do.
So, the questions are these: