Harass: To impede by repeated raids. Exhaust, fatigue. To worry continually and chronically. The aftermath of Matthew Shepard's sad death in Wyoming shows that while homosexuals may be targets for a few low-rent thugs, anyone who states God's word accurately is now a target for the media elite. Christians like Gary Bauer who merely repeated what God says repeatedly in Scripture-that homosexuality is a sin, and that sinners need God's life-changing grace-were classified as purveyors of "hate speech."
Such attacks are part of the harassment Christians face in the United States today. Earlier this year Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal attacked one of Ken Starr's associates because he prays every morning and attends a biblically fervent church. At the same time, however, we should remember that we face harassment, not persecution. The record shows that when we stand on our constitutional rights of freedom to worship, speak, and write, we can fight back; Mr. Blumenthal was forced to apologize. For Christians, silence equals defeat.
"Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come." We want God to enable us and everyone else to honor his name. We want God to bring more and more people to believe and obey his gospel. We cannot serve him well if we hide in a corner, attempting to preserve our personal peace and prosperity, as Francis Schaeffer put it. We cannot give in to harassment and still be bold and courageous, as Joshua repeatedly asked the Israelites to be.
Sometimes boldness means staking out new territory, but sometimes it just means refusing to move from where we are. One of my favorite movie lines was uttered by Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: As senators are pleading with him to give up the floor when he begins a filibuster, and as some are trying to trick him with parliamentary maneuvers, he requests clarification of his position, then with the words, "As I was saying," shows his resolve to continue the filibuster.
As I was saying.... Each of us should ask ourselves, How often over this past year have I been silent when I should have stayed the course? How often have I been silent concerning the offense of the cross so as not to turn off those willing to "grapple with an issue" or "enter into the conversation"? We may think we're being discerning, but often we're just afraid.
And sometimes boldness means refusing to settle for very little. One aspect of harassment is that we applaud vigorously any television program or academic presentation that shows a vague spirituality. The commercial line, "Snickers satisfies you," makes sense in terms of a candy bar that can provide a quick burst of energy, but Christians should not be satisfied by the crumbs of candy that fall off the table of secular liberalism. Jeremiah Burroughs, in his wonderful little book first published about 350 years ago, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, noted that a Christian should be "the most contented man in the world, and yet the most unsatisfied man in the world."
As I was saying.... Lots of evangelicals want to be up to date, but sometimes the best tactic is a simple refusal to change positions or seats. Think of Rosa Parks, the black woman in 1955 who was a member of a harassed minority. She sat down near the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus driver told her to conform to segregation rules by moving to the back, she uttered two words: "I'm tired." Those words were the perfect expression of a harassed person. Rosa Parks was so exhausted that she was steadfast. She put into gear the modern civil rights movement by refusing to move.
Many Christians today are tired of harassment and tempted to move. But in this country under God we are not killed, we are just harassed. It's fine to acknowledge our condition-"I'm tired"-because that will lead us to ask Jesus for the strength not to give in. If we understand that we are harassed and tired but must not give in, we will more frequently pray in confidence for the wisdom to stand firm on the rock that is Christ-for as Paul wrote to Timothy, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and thoughtfulness."